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What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Let's imagine that your child has ADD. His head is always in the clouds, daydreaming and seemingly absent-minded. He only comes back down to earth when you call his name - if he even hears you at all. He gets poor grades in school because he has difficulties following simple instructions. At home, it takes hours for him to do a simple homework assignment. Your son's classmate, on the other hand, has ADHD. He's the class troublemaker who can't sit still in his seat, and who is forever getting scolded for talking too much, butting in on games, or interrupting the teacher. The two boys behaviors are quite different from each other but, believe it or not, both children are afflicted by the same condition and will receive the same diagnosis.

ADD or attention deficit disorder is actually an old term used to describe children who have what is now known as ADHD - attention deficit-hyperactive disorder, inattentive type. When the term ADD was changed into ADHD in 1987, the disorder was broken down into three subtypes.

The first type of ADHD is the inattentive type without hyperactivity, and this is what ADD predominantly refers to. ADHD inattentive type includes symptoms that indicate a child's inability to pay attention or do tasks that need sustained mental activity and concentration.

The second type of ADHD is the hyperactive-impulsive type. Children who fall under this sub-category behave according to the stereotyped child with ADHD - always running, talking, and bouncing off the walls. He'd probably climb walls if he could too.

One important thing to understand about these two types is that behavioral issues more often occur among children with hyperactivity, while inattentive-type children have a higher incidence of emotional problems like anxiety and depression. Often, those suffering from ADHD hyperactive type get diagnosed early on in childhood because the symptoms are more obviously noticeable and disruptive. The problems associated with ADHD inattentive type are typically misunderstood as extreme shyness or as learning disabilities, and the child may not be diagnosed until later on, sometimes as late as high school or adulthood.

The third type of ADHD paints an even more complicated picture because here, we have a combination of inattention and hyperactivity, and a combination of other issues like difficulties in school and poor social skills.

The difference between the behavior of your hypothetical son and his classmate simply shows that no two children manifest the same symptoms of ADHD. One type of ADHD is no better or worse than the other - they're simply different manifestations of the same disorder. It is also important to note that the differences in behavior are due to the fact that ADHD is not simply caused by a chemical imbalance, like medicine would like us to believe. ADHD is spurred by a delicate and complex interaction of environmental and biological factors. That is why treatment for ADHD is not as simple as giving your child a drug that will make him behave. In order to help your child - whether he or she has the hyperactive type ("ADHD"), the inattentive type ("ADD") or the combined type - we therefore need a comprehensive approach that is tailored to the unique needs of your child, that works and that does not have the potentially serious side-effects of medications.

In fact, research has shown that natural treatments for ADHD which are centered on the child's unique history and set of symptoms have been proven to be just as effective - if not even more effective - than ADHD medication.