You are here:

ADHD and ADD: Differences, Types, Symptoms, and Severity

Overview

Attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is
one of the most common childhood disorders. ADHD is a broad term, and the
condition can vary from person to person. There are an estimated 6.4 million diagnosed children in the United States, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.

The
condition is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), though this is considered an outdated term. The American Psychiatric
Association released the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Fifth Edition (DSM-5) in May 2013. The DSM-5 changed the criteria necessary to diagnose someone with ADHD.

Keep
reading to learn more about the types and symptoms of ADHD.

Types of ADHD

There
are three types of ADHD:

1.
Inattentive

This is what is typically referred to when someone uses the term ADD. This means a person
shows enough symptoms of inattention (or easy
distractibility) but isn’t hyperactive or impulsive.

2.
Hyperactive-Impulsive

This type occurs when a person has
symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity but not
inattention.

3.
Combined

This type is when a person has symptoms
of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Symptoms

Any
child can be fidgety or have trouble paying attention. But a child with ADHD has these symptoms to an extent that
they can become a distraction at home or in the classroom.

The
three primary symptoms are:

  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsiveness

With each set
of symptoms, there are a number of criteria that a child will need to meet in order to be diagnosed. The number of criteria needed for a diagnosis can vary by age. Children up to age 16 must show six or more symptoms. Anyone over the age of 17 only
needs five.

Symptoms have to be present for at least six months and must be
inappropriate for a child’s developmental level.

Inattention

Inattention,
or trouble focusing, is one symptom of ADHD. A child can be
diagnosed as inattentive if the child:

  • is easily distracted
  • is forgetful, even in daily activities
  • fails to give
    close attention to details in school work or other activities, including making
    careless mistakes
  • has trouble keeping attention on tasks or
    activities
  • ignores a speaker, even when spoken to
    directly
  • does not follow instructions, fails to
    finish schoolwork or chores, and loses focus or is easily side-tracked
  • has trouble with organization
  • dislikes and avoids tasks that require
    long periods of mental effort, such as homework
  • loses vital things needed for tasks and activities (e.g., books, keys,
    wallet, phone)

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

A
child can be diagnosed as hyperactive or impulsive if the child:

  • appears to be always on the
    go
  • excessively talks
  • has severe difficulty waiting for their turn
  • squirms in their seat, taps their hands or feet, or fidgets
  • gets up from a seat when remaining seated
    is expected
  • runs around or climbs in inappropriate
    situations
  • is unable to
    quietly play or take part in leisure activities
  • blurts out an
    answer before a question has been finished
  • intrudes on and interrupts others constantly

More Criteria

Along
with symptoms of inattention,
hyperactivity, and impulsivity, a child or adult
must meet the following additional
criteria:

  • displays several
    symptoms before the age of 12
  • exhibits symptoms in
    more than one setting, such as school, at home, with friends, or other
    activities
  • shows clear
    evidence that the symptoms interfere with their functioning
    at school or work, or impact their ability to
    socialize with others
  • the symptoms are not explained by another
    condition, such as psychotic, mood, or anxiety
    disorders

Adult ADHD

Adults
with ADHD have typically had the disorder since childhood, but it may not be diagnosed
until later in life. An evaluation usually occurs at the prompting of a peer,
family member, or co-worker who has observed problems at work or in
relationships.

Adults can be diagnosed with any of the three subtypes of
ADHD. Adult ADHD symptoms can be
somewhat different from those experienced by children because of the
relative maturity of adults, as well as physical differences between adults and children.

Severity

The symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on a
person’s unique
physiology and
environment. Some people experience mild inattentiveness or hyperactivity when they
perform a task they don’t enjoy, but they have the ability to focus on tasks they like. Others may
experience more severe symptoms.
These can have a negative impact in school, at work, and in social situations.

Symptoms seem to be more severe in unstructured group
situations (for example, on the playground) than in more structured situations
where rewards are given (in the classroom). Other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or a learning disability may
worsen symptoms. Some people report that symptoms go away with
age. For example, an adult with ADHD who was hyperactive as a child may find
that they’re now
able to remain seated or curb some impulsivity.

Outlook

The good news is that you are one step closer to finding
the right treatment to help you cope by determining your type of attention deficit disorder and
its severity. Be sure to discuss all your symptoms with your doctor so you get an
accurate diagnosis, as this is the first step to getting proper treatment.

Read the 29 Things Only a Person with ADHD Would Understand »

You Asked, We Answered

  • Can a child “outgrow” ADHD or will it continue into adulthood if left untreated?
  • Current
    thinking suggests that as the child grows, the prefrontal cortex grows/matures
    as well, thus decreasing symptoms. It has been suggested that roughly one-third
    of people no longer exhibit symptoms of ADHD during adulthood. Others may
    continue to exhibit symptoms, but ones that are milder than those noted during
    childhood and adolescence.

    – Tim Legg PhD, PMHNP-BC, GNP-BC, CARN-AP, MCHES

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top