Terms like ADD and ADHD sometimes get used interchangeably to describe a child who has potential attention span issues. Though terminology has changed in recent years to identify ADD as a subtype of ADHD. Behavioral psychologists then use this information to develop slightly different treatment strategies to address each condition.

ADD, is an acronym for “Attention Deficit Disorder” whereas ADHD stands for “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” While modern psychologists are adept at diagnosing the symptoms of these conditions and developing treatment plans to help individuals lead more focused lives, the underlying cause is still not 100% certain.

One thing seems clear, there is no amount of grounding, scolding, admonishing, bribing, or other traditional disciplinary methods that work to redirect a child’s focus. Rather the behaviors associated with ADD and ADHD has more to do with how the child or adult’s brain is wired, and are not directly associated with a chosen behavior pattern.

The roots of this mental disorder seem to be related to genetics but there are likely other factors afoot ADD and ADHD have been known by other terms in the past including “Minimal Brain Dysfunction” and even “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood.”

How Common Is ADD & ADHD?

It’s estimated that roughly six or seven percent of people under 18 are affected by some degree of ADD or ADHD. Though most of the time it is only children under the age of 16 who are diagnosed with this disorder. Advancements in modern psychology have helped to retroactively diagnose older individuals based on symptoms shown at a particular age.

This means that approximately three to five percent of adults have ADHD behaviors and symptoms that they have been carrying over since childhood.

In general, male children are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD than females. This translates into roughly 13% of boys versus just over 5% of girls being affected in the United States. At the same time, more than 60% of these individuals have some type of co-morbidity from other behavioral disorders.

These combined factors mean that ADD and ADHD treatment strategies are best addressed by behavior analysis techniques. Though this still requires understanding the difference between ADD vs ADHD.

What Are The Differences Between ADHD & ADD?

With such a high number of adults and children affected by these behavioral disorders, and the families who care about them, they need to identify the differences between ADHD and ADD is clear.

A lot of times, the age the individual was diagnosed can also be a factor. In adults who are retroactively diagnosed other factors such as the perspective of the therapist, their own personal view of the disorder, and the family members affected can also impact the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD.

The most notable difference between ADHD and ADD is that ADD is now considered to be an “Obsolete Term” when it comes to formal diagnosis. ADD used to be a featured diagnosis, but in 1987 the official term was changed to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

ADHD was then subdivided into three distinct classifications based on the prevalent symptoms and the possible presence of comorbidities. They are:

  • ADHD with inattentive presentation – ADHD I
  • ADHD with hyperactive presentation – ADHD II
  • ADHD with combined presentation – ADHD III

It’s important to note that each of these classifications was previously included under the ADD umbrella terminology when that term was originally used in the 1980s. Yet neither of these classifications is the same as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, they do share some similar symptoms and are often encountered together as comorbidities.

Some laymen will casually refer to ADHD-I, which is the classification without hyperactivity, as ADD. Though the term is not clinically correct.

What ADHD-I?

ADHD-I, which is sometimes referred to as “Attention Deficit Disorder” (ADD) is a mental health disorder that involves difficulty focusing, or retaining focus on a task. Many individuals with ADHD-I have trouble controlling their behavior. ADHD-I typically manifests in children and includes sustained symptoms such as:

  • Frequently overlooking details when performing tasks
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Struggling with organizing
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Being easily distracted

What is inattentive ADHD?

Inattentive ADHD within the non-hyperactive form of ADHD-I typically manifests as inattention, distraction, disorganization, and even recurrent absent-minded behavior. It might also include more actively disruptive symptoms. It’s also worth noting that females are more likely to experience this subtype of ADHD than boys or men.

What Is Hyperactive Impulse ADHD?

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is a classification that includes a lot of similar symptoms of inattentive ADHD. However, it typically includes other symptoms such as fidgeting or squirming, incessant talking, impatience, as well as a tendency to interrupt others.

This classification of ADHD-II is typically characterized by high energy levels, poor impulse control, and a general difficulty responding to social cues.

Are There Differences In How ADD and ADHD Are Treated?

Each of the presentations of ADHD is treatable through the standard techniques of applied behavior analysis therapy. Even though ADD is just a subset of what we call ADHD today, there’s no real difference in treatments between the two.

The ABA therapy techniques used for ADD and ADHD are scientifically proven treatments. They have been through rigorous peer review and scientific testing. ABA therapy is considered by nearly all professionals as the first choice for treatment in mild cases or in preschool-age children.

Treatment Techniques For ADHD

There are several popular and effective techniques for treating all three classifications of ADHD. This includes things like

Discrete Trial Training

Known more commonly as DTT this treatment technique employs a series of drills to model appropriate behaviors, breaking down troubling behaviors into a sequence of more manageable components and reinforcing them piece by piece.

Self-Management Training

Proven to be highly effective with older ADHD patients, self-management training emphasizes using self-praise and other internal feedback techniques to calm the impulses they experience and even out behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

More commonly known as CBT, this is a special hybrid therapeutic technique that blends behavioral and psychotherapy techniques. CBT can be used one-on-one or in a group, setting to encourage patients to self-assess and self-regulate.

How Is Inattentive ADHD Treated?

Inattentive ADHD is essentially a responsive behavioral disorder and is often treated with a combination of both behavioral therapy approaches and often the use of medications. This might include traditional medications such as stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.