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ADHD vs ADD: What's The Correct Term To Use?

Written by Sarah Norman

Review by Alina Ivan

Tagged in

  • adhd


Aug 14, 2023, 6 min read

According to national population surveys, ADHD has been found to have increased in prevalence from 6.1% to 10.2% between the years 1997 and 2016, though it remains unclear whether this is due to increased recognition of symptoms or overdiagnosis.


As the number of people diagnosed with ADHD has increased over the years, the name has been updated several times to reflect newly recognised symptoms and signs. Here, we will give an overview of ADHD vs ADD, and the other names associated with the condition.

At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about ADHD, we’re here to help.

What is ADHD, as it is known today?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which is a type of neurodivergence. This means the brain is hard-wired differently to neurotypical individuals.

In adults, symptoms of ADHD could include (but are not limited to) things like trouble focusing, impulsive behaviours, and an inability to pay attention. These symptoms tend to disrupt the everyday lives of those with ADHD, affecting things like their learning, studying, working, organising, managing time, remembering things, or getting tasks done.

What is ADHD as it is known today?

Children with ADHD may struggle to play quietly, take instructions without distraction, and more. They may also be hyperactive, although ADHD tends to present differently in girls than in boys, so girls may show less features of hyperactivity and more of inattentiveness.

What is ADD?

ADD stands for “attention deficit disorder”. It is often said to be an “outdated name for ADHD”, however it is actually a different presentation of ADHD. The official term in most diagnostic manuals is “ADHD of the predominantly inattentive type,” rather than ADD. The inattentive type of ADHD has been found to be more common in females with ADHD and generally means that someone has problems with concentrating and focusing, but not so much with hyperactivity or impulsive behaviour.

ADD is a more common form in ADHD in females

While the inattentive type of ADHD has been described as a less severe form of ADHD, this is a common misconception. No one type of ADHD is more or less severe than others, they just present differently.

"ADHD involves two domains. One domain includes attention and concentration problems and the second is hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADD is part of the same condition however it is a variant where you don’t exhibit the hyperactivity and impulsivity but you do have the attention deficit symptoms. It is therefore likely to be less obvious to observers as you won’t be fidgety/over active and show impulsivity however you would have problems concentrating and focusing on tasks. Therefore it is the cognitive performance that is problematic. Tasks that are mundane and require a lot of concentration will be a struggle. People may find you distracted and bosses may get frustrated as you miss deadlines." - Dr Adrian Lord, Consultant Psychiatrist

How has the name ADHD evolved over the years?

According to the World Health Organization, ADHD currently comes under the umbrella term ‘Hyperkinetic Disorder’, but the definition of ADHD has changed over time. It has previously been referred to as:

  • Hyperkinetic reaction of childhood
  • Hyperkinetic syndrome
  • Hyperactive child syndrome
  • Minimal brain damage
  • Minimal brain dysfunction
  • Minimal cerebral dysfunction
  • Minor cerebral dysfunction
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) — with or without hyperactivity
How has the name ADHD changed over time?

A brief history of the name ‘ADHD’…

1902: ADHD was first mentioned in literature when a British paediatrician (Sir George Frederic Still) described a condition whereby affected children were unable to control their behaviour in the way that other children could. He noted this did not affect their intelligence.

1968: ADHD was originally listed in the second edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) as ‘hyperkinetic reaction of childhood’.

1980: A third edition of the DSM was released, with ADHD listed as attention deficit disorder (ADD). This was because scientists had not yet realised hyperactivity was such a common symptom, however in the DSM-III two subtypes were listed; ADD with hyperactivity, and ADD without hyperactivity.

1987: A new version of the DSM was released that removed the hyperactivity distinction. From then on the condition was known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

1994: When the DSM-IV was published, a slight grammar change in the name ADHD meant that symptoms of the condition were more accurate. Instead of ‘attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder’, the name became ‘attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder’. By adding a slash, it ensured that both types of ADHD can be represented separately if needed.

2013: The fifth edition of the DSM was released (DSM-V), in which the 3 different subtypes of ADHD remain the same, although they are now referred to as ‘presentations’ instead of subtypes.

Today, ADHD is the most common name, but many will still use the term ADD on occasion. Although most people would understand the condition you are referring to, it is best to use the official term (ADHD).

How do you know if you have ADHD or ADD?

There are various symptoms of ADHD which are typically categorised as either inattentiveness or hyperactivity, although it is possible to experience both.

Some of the signs of ADD-style inattention may include:

  • Making careless mistakes often
  • Losing important things such as keys or phones
  • Struggling to control attention or keep attention on task
  • Forgetting important appointments or things like paying the bills

Some of the signs of hyperactivity may include:

  • Difficulty sitting still for a long time without becoming restless
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Talking excessively or interrupting before others have finished speaking
  • Difficulty waiting their turn

What to do if you think you might have ADHD or ADD

If you recognise some of the typical symptoms in yourself and wonder if you could have ADHD, you may benefit from reaching out to a professional to find out more.

No matter how mild or severe your ADHD is, it may help to receive an official diagnosis, get advice from an ADHD specialist, and engage in ongoing therapy to help you manage your emotions and discover tools that could make daily life easier.

You can find out more about the support available and what is involved in a private ADHD assessment here.

How are ADHD and ADD treated?

At Augmentive, we believe advice and support for those with ADHD and ADD should always be bespoke and tailored to the individual to help with their specific symptoms.

Treatments for ADHD could include medication (here’s a guide to ADHD medication in the UK), and/or different types of therapies such as:

  • Psychoeducation, where patients are encouraged to discuss ADHD and its effects on their life
  • Behavioural therapy, where rewards are used to help children control symptoms
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy, where people with ADHD manage issues in day-to-day life by changing their thoughts and behaviours

Often, a combination of medication and therapy is recommended for ADHD. If you have a question about a the condition, like wondering what ADHD paralysis is, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps.

Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from a private ADHD assessment or review, to broader private mental health care.

DISCLAIMER: The content published by Augmentive is not designed to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult your GP or a qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition and before starting any therapy, diet, exercise, or any other health-related programme.

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