Authored by Revere Health

ADD and ADHD: What’s the Difference?

December 19, 2018 | Family Medicine

Many people use “ADD” and “ADHD” interchangeably, but the truth is that these two terms describe slightly different conditions. The confusion came about when doctors universally decided to categorize all forms of attention-deficit disorders as “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” However, some individuals who have attention-deficit disorder aren’t necessarily hyperactive, and individuals who are hyperactive don’t necessarily have issues with paying attention. For this reason, it’s important that you understand the difference between the two conditions so that you can determine a treatment that is best for you or your child.  

ADD Basics

ADD is a highly misused term, as most people use it to mean someone who demonstrates both an inability to maintain focus for long periods of time and hyperactivity. However, ADD is when a person shows enough symptoms of distractibility but not signs of impulsive or hyperactive behavior. A doctor may diagnose ADD if your child presents six of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty staying on track at home, during school or at play
  • Avoids long mental tasks (such as homework)
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when directly spoken to
  • Disorganized and forgetful
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Loses things often
  • Struggles to follow through with instructions


ADHD Basics

ADHD is the condition that most people think of when they hear the term ADD. Yet, only a small percentage of people diagnosed with ADHD actually have this condition. To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must present six of the following symptoms:

  • Fidgets when seated
  • Talks excessively
  • Leaves a seat when sitting is expected
  • Has difficulty engaging in leisurely activities
  • Runs about or climbs in situations when doing so is not appropriate
  • Blurts out answers to questions when it is not okay to do so
  • Frequently interrupts others
  • Has difficulty taking turns. Unfortunately, children with ADD often go undiagnosed because symptoms are often chalked up to daydreaming, or “kids just being kids.”

Of course, these are all symptoms that most children present at some point throughout childhood. For this reason, it’s best to avoid self-diagnosis and rely on professional testing if you or a loved one presents six or more of the above symptoms.


Finding the right treatment is crucial to helping your child manage his or her symptoms. There are drug and non-drug treatments for ADD and ADHD, both of which come with their unique sets of benefits and pitfalls. Behavior modification therapy is the most effective form of treatment in terms of long-term results. However, non-drug treatments require an extensive and ongoing commitment. Drugs offer the most immediate results, but they often pose long-term health risks and their effectiveness tends to wane over time.

If you suspect that your child has ADD or ADHD, talk to your doctor about your concerns. If testing comes back positive, he or she will guide you toward the best treatments for ADD and ADHD.


Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 



“ADD Vs. ADHD: What’s the Difference?” ADDitude Editors.

“ADD Vs. ADHD.” WebMD.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.