Understanding the Distinction between ADD and ADHD: Detailed Explanation and Its Vital Importance

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Approximately one in 20 people has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood that often persists into adulthood. It manifests through problems with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, affecting work, school, and social settings.

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Many people still use the term attention-deficit disorder (ADD) interchangeably with ADHD, but what’s the difference? Essentially, what was once known as ADD is now classified under ADHD. So how did this terminology change?

The first clinical description of ADHD-like behaviors dates back to 1902, when British pediatrician Professor George Still described children with defiance, aggression, and lack of discipline. Since then, our understanding of the condition has evolved, making its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a reference for diagnosing mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions.

The first DSM, published in 1952, did not specifically mention ADHD. But by the second edition in 1968, it included “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood or adolescence,” indicating excessive movement in children with this disorder.

In the early 1980s, the DSM introduced “attention deficit disorder” with two subtypes: ADD with hyperactivity (ADDH) and ADD without hyperactivity. However, by 1987, the DSM-III-R replaced ADD with ADHD and established the three subtypes we use today:

  1. ADHD predominantly inattentive type.
  2. ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type.
  3. ADHD combined type.

The change from ADD to ADHD was prompted by several reasons, including controversy over whether hyperactivity was a necessary component and the need to refine the understanding of attention deficits. There was also an increased focus on inattentiveness, recognizing that children might not always display hyperactivity but could be forgetful or daydreamers.

Despite the transition to ADHD, some people still identify with ADD, either out of habit or because that was the term they were originally diagnosed with. Others may not know that the terminology has evolved.

ADHD diagnoses continue to rise among children and adults, with a growing number of girls and women seeking assessments. However, some experts challenge the broadened definition of ADHD, suggesting it might be influenced by cultural, political, and local factors.

Regardless of the terminology, ADHD continues to impact education, social interactions, and life in general for many individuals. The name change reflects an improved understanding of the condition, but the effects on those with ADHD are still significant.

Kathy Gibbs, Program Director for the Bachelor of Education, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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