There tends to be a lot of confusion around the terms ADD and ADHD. If you’ve never wondered about the difference between the two, then you’re lucky, because it means you’ve never had to deal with these disorders. But if you think your child might be manifesting symptoms of ADD or ADHD, and are not sure what these terms mean, exactly, and how they differ from one another, then we’re here to help.
We’re going to go through the two terms, what they mean, what the differences between them are (if any), the most common symptoms you should look out for in children, and some tips on how to manage these conditions. Believe it or not, these are very common disorders, affecting up to 1 in 20 children in the U.S. So, if your child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, don’t panic, as it’s a very common, very researched disorder that can be effectively managed and even cured.
Are ADD and ADHD the same thing?
You might be confused reading about ADD and ADHD, as the two terms are very commonly used interchangeably. But there is a reason for that. ADD, or attention deficit disorder, is an outdated term that was previously used to describe inattentive-type ADHD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is currently the official medical term for this disorder, covering a wide range of symptoms and including cases that don’t also present signs of hyperactivity.
What is ADHD and what are its symptoms?
ADHD is considered a chronic disorder, which usually debuts in one’s childhood and often continues well into adulthood. The disorder affects millions of children and adults around the world, and is one of the most commonly-diagnosed affections in children in the U.S. Symptoms can be manifold, ranging from trouble maintaining focus and attention to hyperactive and impulsive behavior.
ADHD usually debuts at an early age, and it often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed, because it can be hard to distinguish temper tantrums or hormonal-related behaviors from attention deficit disorders. As children become young adults, symptoms can worsen, leading to investigation, diagnosis, and treatment. Some people will struggle with ADHD and have to manage their symptoms for their entire lives. However, this condition affects everyone differently. In some cases, symptoms lessen and fade with age, even without treatment or therapeutic intervention. Many children will benefit from therapy sessions and ADHD tutoring with a qualified instructor who can help the child stay focused and maintain their attention.
The three types of ADHD in children
While ADHD and ADD basically mean the same thing now, the disorder affects people in different ways, and there are currently three main types of ADHD recognized in children and adults:
- Inattentive – most of the symptoms are related to inattention and inability to stay focused on one thing
- Hyperactive/impulsive – most of the symptoms are related to impulsivity and hyperactivity.
- Combined – the sufferer presents with a mix of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.
ADHD symptoms usually start before the age of 12, but in some cases, certain symptoms can be observed as early as 3 years of age. Symptoms can vary from individual to individual; in some cases, they might be very mild and hardly even noticeable, while in other cases, they may be moderate or severe, significantly affecting a person’s life. The worse the symptoms, the more likely it is that they will continue into adulthood. The disorder affects more males than females, and it can affect boys differently than girls. Boys tend to exhibit more hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, while it’s common for girls to present with inattentive symptoms that are harder to pinpoint.
How to recognize signs and symptoms of ADHD in a child
Symptoms of ADHD in children can be hard to observe and very often confused with temper tantrums or hormonal-related or puberty-related behaviors. Children affected by this disorder might start to have performance issues at school, a hard time focusing on homework or lessons, irritability, hyperactivity, and reckless or impulsive behavior.
Children suffering from the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD might have trouble staying still and relaxing, and be constantly fidgeting or squirming in their seat in class or at home. They might be always in motion, always moving and running around, jumping from task to task and toy to toy, even when other people are around or talking to them. They might talk all the time, not really listening to the other person, or constantly changing the subject and interrupting. They might also have a hard time waiting in line or waiting for their turn to speak, and they will bore very easily.
Boys or girls suffering from the inattentive type of ADHD will often be forgetful, and not remember to do their homework or chores or remember conversations with other people. They will have a hard time focusing on homework or lessons, and their mind will constantly drift. Children suffering from this type of ADHD will have trouble focusing and remembering details, and they will be prone to making careless mistakes at school and at home. For instance, they might forget to lock the door on their way out to school, forget their notebooks at home, and even forget to do their homework. Because of this, their performance in school will suffer, and they will start to avoid any challenging mental task, such as homework or assignments.
Children with combined ADHD will present symptoms of both hyperactivity and restlessness, as well as inattentiveness and forgetfulness.
What are the causes of ADHD in children?
Unfortunately, the exact cause of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder has not been found yet. However, there are certain factors that are believed to play a role in the development of this disorder, including:
- Genetics – chances of developing ADHD are higher if a parent or sibling suffers from the disorder
- Environmental factors – research shows that exposure to toxins in the environment such as lead, which is commonly found in older buildings or schools, might be a trigger for ADHD
- Premature birth
- Maternal behavior – if the mother drinks, smokes, or uses drugs during the pregnancy, the child is more likely to suffer from mental disorders such as ADHD
How can you prevent and manage ADHD at home?
If you suspect that your child might be suffering from a form of ADHD, the best thing to do is to consult with a professional. Symptoms might be mild and stay that way, which means they will be easily managed at home, with some simple steps. Protecting your child from dangerous environmental toxins, limiting screen time and prolonged exposure to devices, making sure they get enough sleep and exercise – all these things might help.
However, if your child is starting to have trouble at school and can’t seem to stay still or focused, professional help might be needed. Speaking with a professional at the first sign that your child might be suffering from ADHD is your best chance to nip the problem in the bud and prevent the disorder from becoming worse and affecting your child’s wellbeing.
Reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative to speak with a qualified professional. We have years of experience dealing with ADHD in children, and can guide you and advise you on how to prevent, recognize, and manage ADHD in your child.