ADD vs. ADHD: Is One Better (or Worse) than the Other?

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

ADD and ADHD are distinct conditions, though they share many of the same symptoms. Their differences do not make one better or worse than the other, but gaining a proper understanding of each condition will arm you with the information you need to create the best treatment regimen possible.

You have ADD: You have trouble at company meetings, you find yourself constantly daydreaming and being snapped back to paying attention when someone says your name. You consistently lose your keys, forget appointments, and are one of the most disorganized people in the office.

Your co-worker, on the other hand, has ADHD. He is constantly moving, constantly talking, and never seems to complete anything, moving from one project to the next. He always looks busy, but he says he never feels like he has accomplished anything. Even though you are so different, you both have the same disorder. It is baffling to think that you both take the same medication and it helps decrease his symptoms of hyperactivity while providing you with more motivation.

ADD is commonly used to refer to Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity and ADHD is often used to describe Attention Deficit Disorder with hyperactivity. Both are considered to be a type of the same condition. There are some major differences between ADD and ADHD:

ADD without hyperactivity (ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type), includes symptoms such as inability to sustain attention, making careless mistakes, avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort, and becoming easily distracted.

ADHD (ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type), has symptoms such as fidgeting, being constantly in motion, restlessness, talking excessively, blurting out answers, and interrupting others.

In addition to the above symptoms, there are a number of characteristics that are often shared by both ADD and ADHD:

  • Forgetfulness

  • Difficulty in school

  • Lack of organizational skills

  • Regularly losing items

  • Poor social skills

  • Low self-esteem

  • Relationship problems

Behavioral problems are more often associated with ADHD, while ADD has a high incidence of co-existing emotional conditions such as depression and anxiety. ADHD is normally diagnosed at an earlier age, as hyperactivity is much more recognizable. Problems associated with ADD may be misunderstood and mislabeled as extreme shyness and therefore not diagnosed until later, sometimes in middle school or high school or not until adulthood.

Relationship issues also seem to occur in both ADHD and ADD. The high energy level of ADHD can allow an individual to attract many people, although they may have more of a problem developing a close emotional bond. People with ADD, on the other hand, have a harder time making friends with others because of their quiet manner, but once they do, they are more easily able to create deep friendships.

At one time, it was thought that ADHD was a boy's disorder and ADD was the girl's disorder. This is now known not to be true. There are boys suffering from symptoms of ADD and girls that are hyperactive.

Overall, there are distinctive characteristics and symptoms for ADHD and ADD. There are also similarities. One is not worse or better than the other. There is simply a difference in behavior patterns. Treatment, when properly done, will not differentiate between ADD and ADHD, but will target the specific areas of difficulty in a person's life and work to improve their lives.


The Disorder Named ADHD from National Resource Center on ADHD.

ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type (WWK8) from National Resource Center on ADHD.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.