Is ADD the Same Thing as ADHD?

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Yes, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the same condition!  The condition has had several name changes in the last three decades. This is because as more research is carried out, our understanding grows. The name is changed to reflect the new knowledge. 

ADHD is now the official name. However, many people still use ADD, which was the formal name from 1980 to 1987.

Some people get angry or frustrated when they hear that ADD and ADHD are the same. They feel that the ‘H’ (which stands for hyperactivity) doesn’t accurately describe them or their child. If this is you, why not take a look at the timeline below. Understanding the evolution of the changes in the name can help.

A Brief Timeline of the Changing Name of ADHD

 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is the standard guideline that doctors, mental health professionals and clinicians use when assessing and diagnosing ADHD.  Each new update and revision of the DSM is eagerly anticipated, as it can mean a big or small change in what the condition is called, and in the diagnosing criteria for ADHD. 


The third edition of the DSM was released and the official name for the condition became attention deficit disorder (ADD).

At this time, hyperactivity was not considered to be a frequent symptom.  Two subtypes of ADD were identified:

  • ADD with Hyperactivity
  • ADD without Hyperactivity.


A revised version of the DSM-III was released. The official name became attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This meant that hyperactivity was considered to be an important feature.


The DSM-IV was published, with a slight grammar change in the name. The official name was now attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The slash between attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder indicated something meaningful. A person could have either or both subtypes. A person didn’t need to be hyperactive to be diagnosed with ADHD. The three subtypes were called:

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type 
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type                


The fifth edition of the DSM was released. The three subtypes of ADHD remain the same, however now they are called presentations. 

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Presentation 
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation    
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation.                

This edition takes into account how symptoms present in children and adults. This is good news, as it was felt that adult ADHD was being overlooked in previous DSMs.

Can I Still Use the Term ADD?

Yes, you can still use the term ADD, and people will almost certainly understand you.

  Many doctors, clinicians, and writers use ADD to mean inattentiveness and use ADHD to describe someone with hyperactivity. Some people use ADD and ADHD interchangeably. However, if you can make the mental switch from ADD to ADHD, it will help avoid potential confusion and keep you up-to-date with the most current terms.

But I Am Not Hyperactive!

Many people with inattention (ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Presentation) feel that using hyperactivity in the name of the condition they have misrepresents their struggles. Often when lay-people hear ADHD, they automatically think "hyperactivity" and they don’t understand the subtleties of the different presentations.

  Of course, you don’t have to share your diagnosis with anyone. But if you choose to, you can elaborate a little and say "inattentive ADHD," which helps clarification straight away.

Interestingly, many adults with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD don’t feel that the "H" accurately describes them either. When we think of hyperactivity, a child who is very physically active and unable to sit still in class comes to mind.  As an adult, hyperactivity might show itself in less obvious ways. For example, you may have workaholic tendencies, talk a lot, or drive very fast. It also might be that you are not as hyperactive as you once were. The fifth edition of the DSM recognizes that a person’s ADHD presentation changes during his or her lifetime.    

In conclusion, ADD and ADHD are names for the condition that is currently called ADHD.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

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