What Is The Big Difference Between ADD and ADHD? Why Does It Matter?
In today’s world, the letters ADD are often thrown around jokingly by peers and adults as well as used by parents who have self-diagnosed their children. Because it is common for children to be hyperactive and restless, at times parents have often mistaken their children for having ADHD.
This is why it is important to be educated on the difference between ADD and ADHD, and what these conditions look like. If you spend your whole life experiencing symptoms and feeling different from others but are not able to give those symptoms a name, it can result in feeling misunderstood and lonely.
The importance of diagnosis is to know what you can change based on what you are experiencing. A diagnosis is not a limitation but an understanding of your experiences and symptoms and shapes you to become a better you with the ability to grow and change with the appropriate tools at hand.
The big difference between ADD and ADHD is, of course, the H, but what does the H mean and what does that look like in daily life? ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a type of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Three Types of ADHD
There are three types of ADHD. The H in ADHD stands for hyperactivity. A person who is diagnosed with ADHD has the physical symptom of hyperactivity, individuals are often restless and have trouble sitting still.
ADHD is also known as a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and begins in early childhood. Children with ADHD may have trouble in academic settings, in the home environment as well as socially.
Symptoms of ADHD often include poor attention span, easily distracted, restless, hyperactive, impulsivity, excessive or chronic procrastination, difficulty starting tasks as well as finishing them, frequently losing items, poor organizational and time management skills and can struggle with forgetfulness.
ADD also known as a predominantly inattentive type of ADHD symptoms include being easily distracted by sounds or the environment around them, unable to focus or follow instructions, forgetful and unable to complete an activity before starting another.
The third and final type is a combination of both of the above symptoms and is known as combined type ADHD. Individuals with this diagnosis have inattention, hyperactivity as well as impulsivity.
Effects of ADHD
ADHD can interfere with many areas of an individual’s life. Children with ADHD often have difficulty in school due to their easy distractibility. Kids who struggle academically due to their ADHD can feel discouraged and this can effect their perception of their ability as well as their confidence intellectually and their self esteem.
Children who experience ADHD need to be encouraged of their abilities and not see their diagnosis as something that stops them from being successful. Instead of ADHD being a roadblock to academic success teachers, mental health care professionals and parents need to approach their kids’ academic concerns and provide tools to aid successful concentration as well as a positive and helpful educational environment.
ADHD has several subtypes as discussed previously; therefore each child should be evaluated and catered to on an individual and specific basis. Some children may need more tools or environmental help than another.
This is why it is important to identify the struggles of each child so that each child is provided with the appropriate amount of help. ADHD in children looks differently for each gender. Boys demonstrate more external symptoms such as aggression than girls do.
ADHD can interfere with many areas of life because of this children may become overwhelmed with their relational dynamic with peers or close family members as well as their performance in academic settings. Because of these factors often children can experience anxiety and or depression due to their difficulties among these areas in their life.
It is important that children are provided with a healthy communication outlet to discuss the issues at hand that their ADHD may bring to the table. This doesn’t have to be a therapist, in fact, as a therapist, I encourage my clients to not only share with me but also share their feelings with someone outside of session. It is important to turn your internal thoughts to external expressive ones.
The power of just sharing your negative thoughts is huge. Suddenly you are able to feel a weight being dropped and your fears or negativity decreasing. This provides a connection and a level of understanding in a friendship that cannot be offered in a therapeutic relationship. Often times there is just relief in expressing internal thoughts aloud. You are heard, understood and your negative thoughts are redirecting into positive ones.
ADHD in Social Settings
In social settings, people with ADHD may come off as disinterested. This can often affect the individual’s relationships that they try to maintain, especially those individuals who do not struggle with ADHD or are unfamiliar and uneducated with what symptoms of ADHD look like.
These friends may feel like they are being ignored at times while in conversations with individuals who have ADHD. A person who has ADHD, specifically ADD type, may be quickly distracted by a noise or other interactions around them in a public setting. The friend of the individual with ADD may feel they are boring them or that the person who experiences ADD is very disengaged from the conversation.
This misunderstanding can result in personalization and hurt feelings when it is actually something that is hard for the individual with ADD to control without proper help and or medication. Although not everyone is affected by ADHD it is important to be educated on what an individual with ADHD may experience.
It is especially important that those who have close relationships or any form of a relationship with someone with ADHD that they are able to not personalize the person’s distractibility as disinterest but instead help the person by being proactive to what environment you choose to have conversations. Just think for a moment, if you desire to have a serious conversation with a friend or are wanting one on one attention you often think of the setting in which this would be appropriate.
This is similar to deciding an environment that would be beneficial for someone who experiences ADD. Individuals with ADD may feel like busy environments’ are like the dynamics of a circus. Just think about the dynamic of a circus – dozens of people all performing from different sides and angles of the stage. They are in the air, on the ground, passing batons and doing flips.
There is applause and cheer, a crowd and many things to keep your eyes scanning the room. There is so much to see and so many objects incorporated into their performance. Someone with ADD may feel like certain environments feel like a circus at times. As an individual who has a relationship with an individual who is diagnosed with ADHD remember how environmental factors can heighten distractibility.
Helping Others with ADHD
If you are an individual who has a relationship with someone with ADHD it is important to be educated on how to best help this person decrease their symptoms, at least the ones in which you are in control over. But it is also the duty of the person with ADHD to be able to voice their needs and communicate with others their distractibility is not in fact disinterest.
If an individual with ADHD is able to express what their struggles are, what they look like and what is helpful from the other person in the relationship this can provide the best stability for a persons relationship dynamic which in turn can then increase the individuals self esteem and decrease any anxiety or depression they may be feeling.
When a person with ADHD knows their needs and can communicate what this looks like there is a sense of relief that improvement is possible. To those who experience ADHD, I encourage you to think about what may cause your symptoms to be exacerbated and know what you can do about it.
Treatment for ADHD
ADHD has most effectively been treated through the coupling of counseling and medication. The combination of the two is most effective because the medication is adjusting the chemicals in your brain to operate how someone without ADHD typically would. While talk therapy is an intervention to address the academic, emotional, family and behavioral problems that can occur among individuals with ADHD.
Medication without therapy can be effective but it is like putting a band-aid on a wound. The band-aid does not take away the wound, it is still present underneath the protective layer. Therefore, medication can help in changing the brain chemistry of the individual but the emotional effects are not discussed and processed through.
This is also the same with therapy without medication. An individual can discuss how their ADHD effects their life and limits their potential but without appropriate tools and medication, the symptoms cannot be minimized to its full capacity.
From a scientific explanation, our brains are made up of millions of neurons and cells, each that have a particular role that they play. These cells send messages to parts of our brain that are connected to and control things in our body. Neurotransmitters are the pathways where chemicals are sent that communicate to our brain and body.
An individual who experiences ADHD has a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter so ultimately the medication gives the brain this chemical it is lacking so it can operate more effectively. It can be difficult, especially as a parent with a younger child who is experiencing ADHD to make a decision whether to medicate or not.
Knowing the scientific aspect of our brains may be encouraging to the parents to know why medication is beneficial. Every parent has that choice whether to medicate or not medicate their child. I think the question personally to ask yourself if you are having difficulty deciding what to do is, “Am I hurting my child more by giving the medication or by refusing it?”
Not all individuals may need medication. Factors to consider are the severity of the ADHD and how much it is interfering with everyday life and functionality. When you understand and know these answers that can help you decide as an individual with a child or an individual personally struggling with ADHD if medication is something you want to begin. I also tell my clients medication is a choice and if you decide to take medication and feel you do not like how it is making you feel you always have to option to stop taking it.
Healthline.com provides the following statistics: The average age of an ADHD diagnosis is 7. Males are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females. Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 6. APA states that cases and diagnoses of ADHD have been increasing dramatically over the past few years. There has been an increase in the diagnosis of ADHD of 42 percent from 2003 to 2011.
When you are most aware of your limitations and are most educated on your options and the tools you can be provided with, this is when growth can occur. Knowledge is power. If you feel that you are reading this article and can identify with the symptoms and topics discussed or you know someone a child or family member experiencing this please reach out for help.
Therapy is for everyone, a tool used to improve yourself mentally, emotionally and intellectually. Avoiding the symptoms will not make things disappear, in fact, it will amplify the severity. Please talk with someone you trust and find resources to aid in decreasing your negative symptoms.
If you are looking for someone to talk with please visit our counselor directory to find a list of counselors and their specialties. Find someone who you feel comfortable with to talk through life’s hardships. There are many mental health professionals available who want to listen and help find you the solution that fits you specifically. Find that person who is able to give you tools you are unable to give yourself. Help is on the way.