What is Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two terms used to describe the same health disorder. While they can be used interchangeably, most of the time, ADHD is used today as ADD is considered to be somewhat outdated.

This condition is considered to be a brain disorder or mental health disorder. It is characterized by distinct sets of characteristics that all work together to form a single condition. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the three areas in which a person with ADHD has issues and trouble.

Who is prone to ADD and ADHD?

ADHD is commonly associated with children. However, anyone can suffer from the condition including adults. In fact, a person may not be diagnosed with the condition until adulthood. Males are more likely than females to suffer from this condition as well.


What are the Symptoms of ADD / ADHD?

There are numerous symptoms of ADHD. They fall within those three categories of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Inattention symptoms include:

Inattention symptoms can include missing details or making careless mistakes on work, home, or school tasks.

Other inattention symptoms involve an inability to maintain sustained attention on any given task, forgetfulness, organization problems, often losing important objects, and avoiding tasks that involve prolonged attention and effort.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms include:

Hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms include an inability to remain still for prolonged periods of time, frequent fidgeting, talking excessively, a tendency to interrupt frequently, answers questions before they are finished being asked, and an inability to do any task quietly or calmly.

Causes of ADD and ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD are not fully understood. Physicians and psychological experts believe that there may be genetic components to this condition. However, there are also possible environmental factors that can contribute including exposure to toxins while in utero or at a young age. Low birth weight, brain injuries, and maternal drug use, alcohol use, or tobacco use can all also be contributing factors to a person developing ADHD.

ADD is an attention disorder characterized by the inability to focus on tasks and hyperactivity. Research into ADHD has revealed several major differences between the brains of healthy individuals and those with ADHD. Specifically, people with ADHD have markedly lower levels of dopamine.

The lack of dopamine is believed to be behind the symptoms of ADHD, but the genetics behind ADHD offer a more precise image of the causes. For example, it is known that a gene known as LPHN3 is responsible for up to 9% of all cases. Other genes involved in ADHD include MAOA, COMT, and DAT. These genes are known to play a serious role in the way the disorder expresses itself in people.

Environment plays a lesser role in the development of ADHD. It is known that people with this condition tend to have life histories filled with abuse and poverty. However, research does not suggest that these factors play an important role.

How is ADD and ADHD Treated?

There are numerous ways of treating ADD / ADHD. Below are the most common.

Behavior modification or behavior therapy

Treatment for ADHD often focuses on behavior modification or behavior therapy. This type of psychological therapy is a practical form of therapy that helps a person with ADHD develop coping mechanisms and practices that can help them in their daily life and with work, school or family life.

Marital and family

Marital and family therapy are also therapy options to help create a supportive environment.

Stimulant medications

Medications can also help with the management of ADHD. Stimulants are medications that can help to trigger the central nervous system to perform necessary actions that can control the symptoms of ADHD. These are drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.

Non-stimulant medications

There are also some non-stimulant medications that may be effective at treating ADHD.

Prevention of ADD and ADHD

Given the genetic factors behind ADHD, it is difficult to effectively prevent the disorder. New research is giving doctors hope in their efforts to combat ADHD. As mentioned, we understand that dopamine levels are linked to ADHD. Thus, efforts to increase dopamine production can actually prevent the onset of ADHD.

Treating disorders such as depression and anxiety, which are known to reduce dopamine levels, can easily prevent ADHD. Brain injuries are a major factor in the onset of ADHD. It is known that over one-half of all people who suffer from brain injuries will later succumb to ADHD as well. Preventing brain injuries can go a long way in preventing the condition. Exposure to lead can also increase the risk of ADHD.

Special caution to avoid this toxic element, often found in the paint of old houses, is of utmost importance.

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Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
April 07, 2019