A Look Into ADD and ADHD’s History


What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD? What are the symptoms of ADHD? And what are the 3 types of ADHD? 

You may have heard the terms Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) used interchangeably. Yes, ADD and ADHD are the same condition, however, a quick look into the history of the terms will show you that the term “ADD” is no longer used in technical diagnoses. 

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11% of children and teens in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD


Here’s a brief overview on the history of ADD and ADHD diagnoses: 

In 1980, the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) coined the term attention deficit disorder or “ADD.” At the time, “hyperactivity” wasn’t considered a consistent symptom, so patients would be diagnosed with ADD with hyperactivity or ADD without hyperactivity. 

In 1987, a revision of the DSM-III was released. This revision officially changed the term “ADD” to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or “ADHD.” This combined hyperactivity and inattentiveness into one diagnostic type. 

In 1994, the DSM-IV was published. This edition came with a few changes, one of them being the addition of a very important slash: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder became attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The slash indicated that individuals can be one or both of the subtypes. The DSM-IV distinguished  the 3 subtypes of ADHD as follows: 

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, combined type 
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive type
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type        

In 2013, the DSM-V was published, and this edition clarified  that the 3 types mentioned above should now be considered “presentations” instead of “subtypes”: 

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, combined presentation
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation  
What is the DSM? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the guide that lays out the criteria to be used by doctors, mental health professionals, and other qualified clinicians when making a diagnosis.

ADHD factors defined:  

Signs of inattentive presentation might include frequently wandering off-task, having difficulty sustaining focus and following through, and being disorganized, in contexts where these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.  

Signs of hyperactive presentation might  include moving about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate, or excessively fidgeting, tapping, or talking. In adults, this may look like extreme restlessness or wearing others out with constant activity.

Signs of impulsive presentation include making hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them, especially if they may have a high potential for harm. More broadly, this presentation includes a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

How is ADHD diagnosed in children? ADD / ADHD

Healthcare providers use the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose children, and any individuals for that matter, with ADHD. The diagnosis can be made by any mental health professional or your primary care provider (for example, your child’s pediatrician). 

Here is the shortened version of the DSM-5 ADHD criteria

  • Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level
  • Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

Note: only a healthcare professional with necessary training can diagnose your child with ADHD

Where to get tested for ADHD

As previously mentioned, a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, neurologist, and some healthcare physicians can diagnose ADHD. Before booking an appointment, ask specifically if the care provider has experience diagnosing ADHD.

Self-diagnosing ADHD is never recommended. And even if you do not plan to treat ADHD with medication, there are other added benefits of having an official diagnosis that could help your kiddo in the long haul. Maybe they are granted longer test time to help focus and get to each question, or they can move to a quieter, less distracting part of the room to finish their school work on time.

ADHD resources:

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