ADD or ADHD in Children (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children or Childhood ADHD)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideADHD Symptoms in Children

ADHD Symptoms in Children

What is the definition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? ADD vs. ADHD

What's the difference between ADD and ADHD?

ADHD, formerly called ADD, refers to a mental health condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD (formerly referred to as ADD) have problems with impulse control, excessive activity, and/or distractibility. These symptoms are considered difficulties with what are known as executive functions, the brain functions that are best understood as being the boss or chief executive officer of brain. Examples of executive functioning include planning, prioritizing, disciplining, and controlling what the person does.

Statistics show that up to 7% of children and teens are thought to suffer from this disorder at any time, with up to 11% of children being assigned the diagnosis at some point during their childhood. Health professionals tend to diagnose boys with ADHD in children at a rate of more than twice that of girls. That is thought to be at least partly due to the diagnosis in girls being missed because of gender differences in ADHD symptoms.

What are the types of ADHD (ADD)?

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Predominately hyperactive/impulsive
  • Predominately inattentive
  • Combined presentation (impulsive, inattentive, and hyperactive)

The diagnostic label of ADHD has evolved over time. Difficulties paying attention were described by physician turned children's books author Heinrich Hoffmann in "The Story of Fidgety Philip," a character who had trouble sitting still. While British pediatrician, Sir George Frederic Still, is credited with being the first to describe the whole group of symptoms for what is now known as ADHD, he viewed it to be caused by a problem with moral control. Earlier labels for this illness include hyperkinetic disease, hyperkinetic reaction of childhood, minimal brain damage, and minimal brain dysfunction.

In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III) formally named attention deficit disorder (ADD), with or without hyperactivity (what is now referred to as ADHD). In 1987, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised (DSM-III-R) changed from having two subtypes of ADD, renaming the condition attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Then in 1994, DSM-IV described ADHD as having the three subtypes of predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined types. That labeling was continued in the treatment revision of the manual (DSM-IV-TR) in 2000 and almost completely retained in the latest version of the manual, DSM-V, in 2013.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2017

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