What's the difference between ADHD and ADD?

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis S. Phillips, MD

    Dr. Phillips received his bachelor's degree in Psychology from Stanford University. After graduating from medical school at the University of Southern California, he completed his residency training and served as Chief Pediatric Resident at UCLA- Harbor General Hospital in Los Angeles.

  • 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.

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Is there a difference between ADHD and ADD?

Doctor's Response

Your question is a good one and is likely shared by very many adults in their 30s or older. The condition in which children display the behaviors now recognized and termed "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD) has undoubtedly been seen as long as there have been children! But in the early 1900s, a British pediatrician, George Still, first documented and discussed the group of symptoms as a specific condition. But it remained unnamed until the early-1970s when it began to be described (unfortunately) as Minimal Brain Damage or Minimum Brain Disorder (MDD). Better research quickly showed, thankfully, that the condition is in fact the result of a biochemical, biological disorder, not "damage" to the brain. And by the early 1980s, the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was accepted. Thereafter, further research and study lead to the term, still used today, of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And although we now recognize that in many youngsters with this condition, the "hyperactivity" component may not be a major factor (especially in girls), this term has been accepted and remains in use.

Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics


"Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Overview of treatment and prognosis"

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Reviewed on 6/5/2017