Does your child seem to daydream at school and get easily distracted when doing chores or homework? Do they fidget constantly? If so, you may wonder if they are dealing with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD).

If you are like many, you may also wonder if there is a difference between the two?

There are some people who will use the terms for the same thing and in some situations, it is correct. But this is not always the case.

ADD is a type of ADHD. With ADD, the children do not constantly fidget or move. However, there is still a blurry distinction. This confusion began all the way back in 1994. This is when experts decided that all types of attention-deficit disorder would be referred to as “attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” even in situations where the person was not hyperactive. Now it is called ADHD hyperactive/impulsive type, ADHD inattentive type, or even ADHD combined type.

The term that is right for you and your family decides to use is dependent on your child’s diagnosis and specific symptoms. You should speak with a metal health expert to ensure your child receives the proper diagnosis.

Fidgeter or Daydreamer

ADHD is a type of brain-based disorder. It may begin to interfere with the child’s day-to-day activities while at home and while at school. Children who have it usually have problems controlling their behavior or having trouble paying attention and are occasionally hyperactive.

Before being diagnosed, it is important to take note of the child’s symptoms. You can find an ADHD checklist from the CDC that will help you keep track of what is going on.

Some of the signs you should look for that may indicate this issue include:

Inattention: This includes issues staying on task, disorganization, constant daydreaming, and not paying proper attention when spoken to.

Hyperactivity: This involves constant movement, talking, tapping, fidgeting, squirming, and more especially in situations where it is not appropriate.

Impulsivity: This includes spur-of-the-moment decisions with no consideration of the long-term effects or chance of harm. The child will act quickly to receive an immediate reward. They may interrupt family, friends, and teachers regularly.

United States mental health professionals use the DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to help diagnose all the psychiatric conditions that may occur, which includes ADHD. The three forms of this condition that are known today are further explained below.

ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (ADD)

Children who suffer from this condition are not hyperactive. They are not dealing with the high levels of energy that are seen with some other cases of ADHD. In many cases, the children that have this type may even seem like they are “in their own world,” or shy.

ADD will be diagnosed if a child under the age of 16 is dealing with six or more of the symptoms of inattention (and five or more for older children) for a minimum of six consecutive months but there are no signs of impulsivity or hyperactivity.

Some of the symptoms to look for include:

Issues paying attention

Avoidance of longer mental tasks

Issues staying on task

Seems forgetful

Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to

Fails to pay attention to details

Makes careless mistakes

Doesn’t follow through with instructions

If a child suffers from this type of ADHD they may go on without being diagnosed because the symptoms are just considered daydreaming.

ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation

Any child diagnosed with this type of ADHD will have a lot of energy and are always moving in ways that cause issues. It is diagnosed for children under 16 if they have six or more of the hyperactive and impulse symptoms for six months. This form of the condition is usually more noticeable than the inattentive variety.

Common symptoms include:

Always going or moving

Blurting out answers before the question is asked

Unable to quietly play

Issues waiting their turn

Climbing or running in inappropriate situations

Issues waiting their turn

Getting up when not appropriate

Talking too much

Squirming, tapping, or fidgeting

Interrupting others constantly

ADHD Combined Presentation

Children with this type will have symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.

Potential Causes of ADHD

Understanding the different types of ADHD is one step, but it is also important to understand more about what causes this condition to occur. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly the cause of ADHD. While this is true, there are some things that are known to play a role in this condition.

One theory is that there is a family connection. For many people, ADHD is a condition that runs in their family. It is estimated that between a third to a half of parents who have ADHD are going to have a child who suffers from this disorder, as well. There are a few different genetic characteristics that are often passed down.

If one of a child’s parents is dealing with ADHD, the child has a 50% chance of having to deal with it, too. If the child’s older sibling has the condition, the child will have a 30% chance of having it, too.

Another common trend is that children who are born premature, have a low birth rate, or have a mother who had a challenging pregnancy will have a much higher chance of dealing with ADHD. The same is true for children who have experienced head injuries to the brain’s frontal lobe, which is the part that controls emotions and impulses.

Some studies have shown that women who are pregnant and drink or smoke could have an increased risk of having a child who is diagnosed with ADHD. Other factors that may play a role include pesticides, PCBs, and lead.

Understanding ADD and ADHD

There is no question that fully understanding ADD and ADHD can be challenging. While this is true, the information here provides a brief overview of the different types of conditions your child may be dealing with. Understanding this will help you know when treatment or care is needed.

Since there is so much information on this topic, more than be covered in our blog, here are a few links to some sites with additional information if you want to get deeper into it.