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While many people use the terms ADD and ADHD to mean the same thing, ADD symptoms are related specifically to poor concentration and a lack of attention. In contrast, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity are more characteristic of ADHD. Many children may exhibit these symptoms to a lesser degree, so before an accurate diagnosis can be made, a well-qualified professional should perform a thorough examination.

Signs and Symptoms of ADD: An Overview

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The condition used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, ADD was renamed ADHD. As is common in conversation, for this article we will use ADD, ADHD, and AD/HD interchangeably to mean the same condition.
The principal ADHD symptoms are (as explained in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV-TR]):
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity.
Today's definition of ADD symptoms does not include the hyperactivity or impulsivity components of this list.
Symptoms of ADD appear early in a child's life. Because many normal children may have possible ADD symptoms, but at a low level (or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder), it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate ADD diagnosis by a well-qualified professional.
Children with symptoms of inattention:
  • Often do not give close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Often have trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities
  • Often do not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often do not follow instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to rebellious behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • Often have trouble organizing activities
  • Often avoid, dislike, or don't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often lose things needed for tasks and activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Are often easily distracted
  • Are often forgetful in daily activities.
Children with inattentive symptoms have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing something they really enjoy, they usually have no trouble paying attention. However, focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult.
Homework is particularly hard for children with inattentive symptoms of ADD. They will forget to write down an assignment or leave it at school. They will forget to bring a book home or bring the wrong one. The homework, if finally finished, is full of errors and erasures. Homework is often accompanied by frustration for both the parent and the child.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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