When searching for information on mental health issues, you’ll find attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) lumped together. You’ll often read ADD/ADHD. So it’s easy to see why people get confused.

Before we talk about the differences, it’s worth it to take a brief historical look at attention deficit disorder to understand how the term came about.

The diagnostic system of psychiatric disorders is relatively young, adopted back in 1980. Before that, doctors used the term to describe hyperactive and inattentive children as “Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood.”

Then a new publication of the psychiatric diagnostic reference, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Edition (DSM III), came out in 1980, and the terms “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (ADHD) and “attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity” (plain ADD) were formalized.

So What are the Real Differences Between ADHD and ADD?

The fundamental difference between ADD and ADHD is diagnosing the person and which terminology (older or newer) they prefer to use. For example, “Attention Deficit Disorder” is shorter and easier to say and write. It is often used by people and medical professionals as a shorthand version of the full-blown Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

To be clear, and technically speaking, there is no longer an official “attention deficit disorder (ADD)” diagnosis — it is all known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with a specifier made for the actual type of ADHD the patient suffers: inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, or a combination type.

That being said, ADD is often used as a shorthand to describe the inattentive type of ADHD.

I know; it can be confusing!


Treatments for ADD and the other types of ADHD (hyperactive-impulsive and combination) are similar and typically include some therapy and/or medication as interventions.

Common therapies include:

Behavioural therapy: Often using a rewards system, the goal of behavioural therapy is to change negative behaviours into positive ones. This therapy is often used in conjunction with medication.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): This type of talk therapy encourages individuals to think about their feelings and behaviour. CBT helps kids and adults build self-esteem, which often takes a hit with the diagnosis of ADHD.

Social skills groups: This is a therapy primarily used to treat kids and adolescence with ADHD. Kids with ADHD often have symptoms that make it hard to socialize. A social skills group can help kids learn and practise essential skills for interacting with others.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD and is interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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