The Difference Between ADHD and ADD

ADHD vs ADD – what’s the difference? When it comes to attention disorders in children, two common chronic conditions are Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s important for parents to know the difference between the two in order to properly create and execute a treatment plan for your child. If these conditions are not treated, they can have a significant impact on your child’s emotional, academic and social environments in childhood, adolescence and even in adulthood.

What are the differences between the two conditions and what types of treatment are best?


The American Academy of Pediatrics defines Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a condition of the brain that makes it hard for children to control their behavior. Furthermore, children with ADHD have frequent, severe problems that interfere with their ability to live normal lives.

Additionally, ADHD has three subtypes:

  • Inattentive ADHD—Lack of focus, disorganization, and forgetfulness.
  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD—Restlessness, impulsive decision-making.
  • Combined Presentation ADHD—A mix of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Children with ADHD have frequent behavior issues that include high activity levels, failing to stay focused long enough to accomplish tasks, and difficulty remaining still for long periods of time.


On the other hand, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is classified as the inattentive ADHD subtype. Though the term is still used by many parents and teachers, ADD is now an outdated term, as doctors recognize ADD as inattentive ADHD.

Medical News Today explains that “the difference in children with inattentive ADHD is that their lack of ability to focus and pay attention is greater than what is expected for their age.” Children are distracted when focused on tasks, unable to pay attention, unable to organize or manage time, and often lose items needed for daily activity.

The biggest difference between inattentive ADHD and ADHD is that children with inattentive ADHD do not have impulsive or hyper tendencies. Furthermore, children with inattentive ADHD may go undiagnosed because their symptoms may be written off as daydreaming.

Treatment options for ADHD vs ADD

Before creating treatment plans, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends performing ADHD evaluations in any child ages 4-18 who present academic and/or behavioral problems plus symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. This evaluation involves gathering information from parents/guardians, teachers, and other mental health clinicians.

For children with ADD (inattentive ADHD), treatment plans often revolve around medication, behavioral, and psychological interventions. Medication is commonly used to help manage and reduce a child’s inattentive behavior.

Treatment plans for ADHD vary by age.

  • For children ages 4-5—treatment options include first with parent and/or teacher administered behavioral therapy and then methylphenidate if behavioral interventions do not lead to improvement.
  • For children ages 6-11—treatment options include FDA approved medications and parent or teacher-based behavioral therapy.
  • For adolescents ages 12-18—treatment options include FDA approved medications and behavioral therapy.

If you believe your child may be suffering from ADHD, try our free Heads Up Checkup symptom checker.

If your child has a confirmed ADHD diagnosis, it’s important to first create a long-term management plan that serves as ongoing treatment. What should be included in a long-term management plan? From establishing structure and consistent rules in your home to creating good sleeping habits, there are various ways you can help your child and your family deal with the challenges of ADHD. Click here to read our six tips on how you can help your child overcome daily challenges and bring greater calm to your home.

Finally, at Well Street, we believe it is important for your child to receive help from a behavioral health care professional as soon as you suspect your child is suffering from ADHD. When behavioral interventions and/or parent training therapies are used as initial treatment, it might improve ADHD symptoms in both children and teens.

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