Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity are used interchangeably, but one is considered a subtype of the other. It all started in 1980 when The American Psychiatric Association published the third edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
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In the third edition, the condition was referred to as attention-deficit disorder (ADD). They also identified two subtypes of ADD. In 1987, a revised version of the third edition was released, and the official name had changed to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In 1994, the fourth edition was released, and the official name had changed slightly to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The fifth edition was released seven years ago, and the name remained the same. However, they made a few changes to the subtypes and renamed them presentations.
As detailed above, the term ADD is outdated, but it’s still in use. You’ll find that even health professionals use the ADD to describe inattentiveness. Alternatively, ADHD is used to describe hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
Although ADD and ADHD are typically associated with children, they also affect adults. It’s not uncommon for the ADHD and ADD symptoms to lessen with age, but for some, they have to learn to live with the symptoms.
Do I have ADD Or ADHD?
People often confuse the two and say that they’ve been diagnosed with one when diagnosed with the other. You can differentiate the two by understanding the signs and symptoms. So, how to know if you have ADHD or ADD? Continue reading to learn more about this.
1. Impulsive Behavior
Kids are naturally curious and very unpredictable. One minute your children could be seated calmly on the couch, and the next, they are running around the room like maniacs. At a young age, kids have little control over their actions; they simply do whatever comes to mind.
This often means engaging in activities without thinking of the consequences. For example, a child can kick the ball towards the road and run after the ball without thinking about oncoming traffic.
When such situations occur occasionally, you’ll easily dismiss it as kids being kids. It becomes a problem when you notice that it’s a regular occurrence. This is when you start to realize that your kid might have a medical problem.
However, before you make any decision, you might want to consult a doctor. The doctor will refer you to an ADHD specialist who will examine your kid and determine whether he/she has ADHD.
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The specialist will look for signs such as:
- Aggression towards other kids
- Overreaction to frustration or disappointment, especially when parents or guardians aren’t paying attention as desired
- Constant interruption–you’ll notice that the child is always interrupting you, his/her friends, and teachers by speaking over them. If he doesn’t get the attention he/she desires, the kid begins to act out
- Impatience–the child simply can’t wait for their turn
If you’re dealing with an adult, these are some of the adult ADHD and ADD symptoms to look for:
- Little to no self-control, which often leads to aggression
- Easily distracted
- Acts and talks without thinking
Being impulsive typically has more downsides than upsides. Some of these downsides are:
- It’s not uncommon to get angry at something or someone. However, the outcome is often determined by how fast you get angry. An impulsive individual wouldn’t think twice in such situations.
- Impulsive people are easily pulled into anything. For example, an impulsive adult might enjoy the thrill and adrenaline rush of gambling. This leads to a gambling problem as they’re always chasing that feeling whether they win or lose.
2. Short Attention Span
Short attention spans are hard to diagnose, especially in this age of technology, as the attention span of youngsters is thought to have decreased. If you think about it, you’ll see that they’re right. When was the last time you watched a video on YouTube without forwarding or thinking of forwarding it?
We’ve all been there, and it could be that we are bored easily or have ADD. You might want to consult a doctor on this issue.
If it’s ADD, it will affect your life in many ways as you’ll find that you’re having trouble concentrating on boring tasks. You’re in constant need of stimulation to stay engaged on the task at hand.
If you’re a student, you’ll notice that you’re lagging in class as you can’t keep up with the lectures. In addition to this, you’ll notice that you’re developing the following:
- You’re easily distracted
- Inability to complete tasks
- Missing important details, such as instructions
Having a short attention span will affect your life in ways such as:
- The decline in performance in school
- Inability to complete tasks as required which could result in you being fired
- Poor health as you will easily procrastinate healthy habits
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3. Self-Centered Behavior
Being self-centered is often viewed as an unappealing personality trait. These are people who rarely show any compassion towards others, and they don’t care about others’ feelings. When you’re self-centered, the world revolves around you and your problems. You focus solely on the problems that affect you and rarely have time for others.
The world feels smaller, and some will say that you have ADHD. This is because being self-centered among the main ADHD and ADD symptoms in adults. However, being self-centered doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ADHD.
Don’t be quick to judge your child for their self-centered behavior. It could be a medical condition which you can verify by consulting a specialist. You can also check off some of these signs of self-centered due to ADHD if you’re not sure.
- He/she will feel that they are better than everyone else
- Show very little empathy
- Assumes that the world revolves around them and that their friends are always available
- They think that their interests should always come before everyone else’s
Self-centered behavior has consequences, and they include:
- Breeds dissatisfaction as it’s impossible to satisfy your endless desires
- Impedes development
- Cause you to engage in actions that you later regret
If you’re dealing with a self-centered person, sit down and talk to the person. Tell them what you’ve observed and offer to help them get the assistance they need. If the person with this behavior is you, seek medical advice from specialists.
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4. Your Child Fidget
As you’d expect with kids, they rarely sit still for long. Even when eating food, the child is banging the table with the spoon or tapping their pencil during class. Most will dismiss this as the constant need for stimulation.
However, when the child begins to fidget constantly, it becomes an issue. Fidgeting is often as a result of nervousness, boredom, agitation, etc. For example, when you’re in a meeting or interview, you might find yourself playing with your fingers, hair, pen, etc.
It could be an unconscious act to signify that you’re bored. It could also be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Some of the signs that you’re fidgeting due to ADHD are:
- Tapping toes
- Bouncing legs
- Playing with hair, fingers, or small objects
- Inability to sit still
- Blinking a lot
As you grow up, you’re taught that you need to sit still and concentrate on a single task. People with ADHD struggle to do this and often find themselves fidgeting. These ADHD and ADD symptoms are easy to spot as they’re repetitive.
Kids with ADHD will not play with their fingers or hair for a minute, then stop. It’s a repetitive action, and they’ll continue doing it until they find something to do.
Fidgeting is in no way life-threatening, but it will affect how people view you. Some of the effects include:
- Social awkwardness
- Easily distracted
- Affects comprehension, especially in school
If your child is fidgeting, you need to figure out the cause before picking a remedy. If the fidgeting is associated with restlessness or nervousness, find a remedy that tackles the problem. Your child’s teacher can help with some of these problems.
If the problem is associated with ADHD, then look for a specialist.
5. Making Careless Mistakes
Mistakes are part of life. You make a mistake; you correct it and move on with life. This becomes problematic when the mistakes are recurring. If you or your child are making mistakes because you can’t focus on a single task, it could be a sign of ADD.
Consult a doctor to help you understand whether you have ADD or not. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging the contributing factor. In this case, the contributing factor is ADD; now, figure out how to work around it to minimize mistakes.
Also, check if you’re exhibiting any of these traits:
- You rarely submit error-free work
- You don’t go through your work to check for errors
- Mistakes don’t bother you
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Now that you know the ADHD and ADD symptoms and causes, figure out how to address the problem. Don’t shrug off a mistake by saying that it’s normal. Instead, learn from the mistakes and figure out what you can do differently.
For example, we’ve mentioned earlier that people with ADD rarely review their work. You can start by reviewing your work before handing it in. You also need to acknowledge your mistakes and figure out what you can do differently to avoid the mistakes.
These mistakes don’t define you; what matters is how you pick yourself up and work towards eliminating the mistakes. If you’re not sure what you should do, seek help from friends, family, or specialists.
Mistakes are damaging if you don’t fix them in ways such as:
- If you keep making mistakes, your colleagues, friends, and family will find it hard to trust you with important tasks
- The more mistakes you commit, the more you’ll start to wonder if you’re the problem. This eventually leads to low self-esteem and other issues
- Mistakes could lead to accidents
6. Poor Time Management
How many times have you had to reschedule a meeting because you were running late? If none, then you must have some impressive time management skills. If many, then you might have a problem or a medical condition such as ADHD.
It feels terrible being late to a meeting, interview, class, or picking your kids from school. You can see the dismay as you approach those who were waiting for you.
Have you ever been handed a task but waited until the last days to begin working on it? This could be a sign of ADHD as people suffering from this condition have difficulties with reaction time and time perception.
This means that patients with ADHD have a different understanding of how long tasks take to complete. Typically, this leads to failure to meet deadlines and poor time management.
Some may think that you’re lazy when the problem is your condition. Your sense of time is distorted, plus you’re easily distracted.
Occasionally, everyone loses track of time, but for people with ADHD, it’s a common occurrence. It affects their life by:
- Ruining relationships as you can’t honor engagements due to poor time management.
- It compromises your studies, job, and career due to poor quality work and missed deadlines.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to live with the condition as is. Start by learning time management tips that are effective for people with ADHD. For example, you can create a to-do list and use reminder programs to remind you what you’re supposed to do throughout the day.
Try to minimize procrastination and focus on one task at a time. If you have a diminutive attention span, you can incorporate a reward system where you work for about 25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, and continue to work for another 25 and rest for 5.
7. Frequent Mood Swings
It’s not unusual to spend your days in an emotional roller coaster. Typically, such mood changes are affected by your surroundings, stress, hormonal imbalance, etc. The best countermeasure is to figure out what is triggering these mood swings.
You can dismiss these mood swings as passing clouds, but when they begin to affect your performance, it’s time to seek professional help. If you find that your mood changes are dramatic, it could be ADHD.
Don’t confuse ADHD mood swings with mood swings associated with bipolar disorder. People with the former tend to have strong emotional reactions, and their mood swings are dramatic. Alternatively, people with bipolar disorders tend to have mood swings that shift without a trigger. In addition, mood changes are slower.
However, before you make a diagnosis, be sure to consult a doctor.
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People with ADHD mood swings will exhibit the following signs:
- Strong emotional reactions
- Trouble managing emotions
The effects of these mood swings include:
- Minor frustrations illicit big reactions
- Rapid mood swings can cause too much excitement, making it hard for you to control spending
- Intense reactions when faced with challenges
It’s normal to have certain days when you feel happy, and others when you feel sad. If your mood changes have no effect on your life, then it’s considered healthy. However, if the mood changes occur daily and cause serious shifts in your mood that affect your life, seek medical advice.
8. Forgetful Nature
Forgetting anything is infuriating, but it’s even more frustrating when you can’t remember the little things. This can easily ruin your career, relationship, and even marriage. You’ve probably noticed this in older people, but it is also common in kids and adults, especially if they have ADD. Forgetting stuff isn’t limited to ADD; it’s also associated with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia. Unlike most of these conditions, people with ADHD have a functioning long-term memory, but their working or short-term memory is impaired. As a result, they have trouble completing tasks that require concentration or remember minor details, such as assignments.
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Memory deficit is associated with a short attention span, as it’s a vital component of the memory process. However, if you’re unsure if your forgetfulness is associated with ADD, be sure to contact a trained neuropsychologist.
The specialist will conduct tests to identify the cause of your forgetfulness and its extent. If the cause is ADD, there is no single definitive cure, but interventions can improve your memory. You can make use of reminders, calendars, and memory exercises.
Also, accept that you have some limitations, but it shouldn’t weigh you down. Embrace your limitations, instead of trying to hide or deny them. The first step to doing this is to understand the traits of people who exhibit ADD related forgiveness.
The traits include:
- You’re too young to be forgetting simple stuff
- You’ve eliminated the other illnesses that cause memory loss
- You’re forgetting daily tasks and abandoning assigned projects
- Lengthy multi-step directions have become frustrating
Forgetfulness has its downsides, which include:
- Embarrassment in front of your peers, fellow students, etc.
- Lower self-confidence
- Stressful life because you can’t remember what’s needed at certain times
9. Hot Temperedness
We’ve already discussed how ADHD affects your ability to control your impulse. You see, it’s difficult to manage impulses as you’re always feeling the need to act on these impulses.
The lack of impulse control ordinarily leads to problems as you’ll find it hard to control emotions such as anger.
An emotion like anger is very powerful, and if it’s not controlled, you’ll find yourself acting out. At that moment, it feels right, but you’ll later regret your actions.
People with ADHD struggle with anger management and often find themselves in sticky situations as they have trouble controlling their anger. It’s even worse with kids as they don’t know how to contain and express their feelings.
Common ADHD anger attributes include:
- Rarely forgives and never forgets
- Hates interruptions
- Is infuriated by the slightest inconveniences
If your hot temper is not controlled, it could lead to a stroke, high blood pressure, and even a heart attack.
Temper control requires executive function skills. Before you act on your anger, think about your actions plus the intended and unintended consequences of your actions. Also, know your triggers as it’s often the case, strong emotional reactions have a historical root.
Seek help from the experts by attending anger management workshops, reading self-help books, and consulting professionals. Think of your hot temper as a problem like any other. Use the tools and resources available to manage the problem.
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10. Incomplete Tasks
As discussed earlier, one of the traits of ADD is short attention span and forgetfulness. There is also the issue of procrastination. All these combined breeds a very undesirable trait, which is incomplete tasks or projects. Once you embark on a project or task, it gets boring, or you put it off for later but later never comes. You might also decide to do and forget about the task or project.
People with ADD are also disorganized such that urgent projects go unfinished as they’re buried in heaps of clutter. It could also be that you don’t have a schedule, or you have poor time management skills. All these issues will cause problems at your workplace, school, and even at home.
This is not to say that people without any disorders are perfect; they have issues of their own and will probably fall in the same trap of time mismanagement, procrastination, etc. However, ADD patients have it worse as they have short attention spans and have to deal with impulsivity.
This means that if they’re distracted, they’ll probably focus on the distraction instead of what they were working on.
If you’re leaving tasks incomplete regularly, you might want to check whether you’re exhibiting the following traits:
- You’re easily distracted
- You easily forget what you were doing
- Poor time management
- Easily sidetracked
Leaving tasks incomplete will have dire consequences on your life. These include:
- Your colleagues and employers will not entrust with work and might eventually decide to fire you.
- You’ll lag behind in school as most of your assignments and classwork will be incomplete.
Most ADD patients with this problem typically have low productivity. You can remedy this by planning, organizing, and prioritizing your tasks. Come up with a schedule of all the things you need to do in a day and organize them in terms of priority. Start with the most urgent tasks and work your way towards the least urgent.
11. Risky Behavior
Does your child seem fearless even in the face of danger? Is your child exhibiting risky behaviors and disregard for their own safety? It’s possible that your child has ADHD.
If you’re dealing with a teen, it could be that they’re just trying to be difficult. They understand the risks involved but choose to disregard them. In contrast, teens with ADHD have poor judgment, little to no impulse control, and immature thinking.
It’s hard to differentiate the two, especially when dealing with kids and teenagers. They are at an age where their minds are impressionable. They’ll do anything to fit in and look cool even when they know it’s not the right choice.
To differentiate whether your child has ADHD or is simply seeking attention/trying to fit in, check for these ADHD traits:
- Problems in school: if your child can’t control his/her impulse in school and often interrupts the teachers, it could be ADHD.
- Substance abuse: kids with ADHD have poor impulse control and might use drugs to deal with their frustrations.
- Rigid reactions
- No reaction to danger: if your teen is driving recklessly and enjoying it even when faced with near-death situations, it might be time to consult a specialist.
- Problems with the law: teens with ADHD are more likely to act out and cause trouble leading to arrests.
The effect of such behavior includes:
- Your child is always injured.
- He/she causes a lot of damage
- Exhibits poor judgment
Children that exhibit risky behaviors are hard to deal with; thus, if you can, consult a professional.
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12. Poor Organization Skills
If your child has ADD, you learn to deal with the poor organizational skills of your child. You see, kids are typically disorganized, but as they grow older, they begin to learn what is expected of them.
They begin to understand that they should put away their toys after playing. They pick up on the little things and improve on what they can. However, if your child has ADD, you’ll notice that they have poor organizational skills.
It becomes worse as they grow older. You’ll notice that they’re constantly forgetting their homework, piling up clothes in their rooms, difficulty sticking to a routine, etc.
The organization is not fun even for people without ADD; thus, convincing a kid with ADD to organize their room and work will be challenging. Your child can’t organize everything on their own. You need to support them and don’t be too nagging.
Instead, opt for a positive approach where you’re always encouraging your child to improve their organization skills and rewarding them for little improvements. ADD patients are easily distracted; thus, you need to create a routine that keeps your child engaged.
Keep in mind that the routine will not work immediately; there will be some back and forth. However, be patient and offer incentives. In a year or so, your child will have improved.
If you’re not certain whether your child has ADD, look for the following traits:
- Can hardly organize their things
- Has difficulty completing sequential tasks
- Everything is disorganized and messy
You have to work out how to overcome this problem. If not, the child will have to deal with issues such as less efficiency and productivity. Also, people will find it hard to depend on your child.
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13. Lack Of Concentration
A person who can’t control or direct their attention to something is said to have an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t focus; it’s just that their attention span towards things that aren’t “rewarding” is very minimal.
When dealing with kids with ADHD, they will enjoy rewarding tasks such as playing video games, but when told to go to bed, wear shoes, help with chores or do schoolwork, their concentration drops.
Kids with ADHD sometimes have hyperfocus, or they can concentrate on an activity that they love, but when told to stop, they are unable to “attention switch” If you or your child is experiencing such symptoms, it could be ADHD.
It could also be anxiety, depression, or even concentration deficit disorder. To ascertain what is ailing you, visit a doctor and check if you exhibit any of these traits:
- Easily distracted
- Overlook details
- Struggle to listen to conversations
If you’ve ascertained that the problem is caused by ADHD, you might experience some of these effects:
- Reduced productivity
- Poor decision making
- Affects your ability to focus on your goals
To avoid these effects, you can try to improve your concentration by incorporating these tips:
- Create a parking lot for ideas that sidetrack you. For instance, if you’re busy working on a school project and an idea pops into your head to check on your friend, write it down in a notebook or sticky notes. Dump these ideas in your “parking lot” and revive them at a more appropriate time.
- Identify your triggers to help you anticipate the distractions. For instance, if you’re distracted by the thought or sight of food, try to stay away from the kitchen. You can also turn these triggers into rewards such that if you complete the agreed portion of your task, you can indulge in your distraction for several minutes.
- Create a schedule and stick to it
- Exercise regularly
- Focus on one task at a time
- Take breaks between your tasks
Kids are naturally more active compared to adults. It shouldn’t be an issue as it could be the child’s personality or a development stage. However, if your child’s hyperactivity is getting in the way of their ability to function or get along with others, it might be a disorder.
Visit a doctor and have the child examined by the doctor to determine whether he/she is naturally hyperactive or has ADHD.
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You can also check if your child has any of these ADHD and ADD symptoms:
- Often on the go
- Intrudes or interrupts others
- Unusual energetic persona
- Rarely plays quietly
- Barely waits for his/her turn
Hyperactivity typically breeds additional problems such as:
Don’t be quick to claim that you or your child has ADHD. If the person in question is your child, you might want to know that kids are naturally hyperactive, and you’ll wear out before they do. Thus, don’t classify your child as having ADHD simply because he’s too active compared to his/her siblings or classmates.
If you’re not certain, consult a pediatrician who will refer you to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician or any other specialist who might help. However, ensure that your child undergoes a medical evaluation first to eliminate all other causes of hyperactivity.
15. Avoiding Time-Intensive Tasks
You can’t blame a child, teen, or even yourself for trying to avoid time-consuming tasks. They are typically boring, and very few enjoy completing these tasks, but they need to be completed. Such behavior can affect your work and home relationships as you’re always behind schedule. It could be a sign of laziness or a symptom of ADD.
ADD patients loath time-consuming tasks and will opt to carry out the smaller tasks. They will try to avoid or put-off the time-consuming tasks for as long as they can. This is different from procrastination as people who procrastinate tend to put off all work for a later day. Some prefer working on tasks at the last minute as the pressure to deliver helps them focus.
Note the differences between avoiding time-consuming tasks and procrastination. Here are some of the traits that will help you differentiate avoiding time-consuming tasks from procrastination:
- Rarely complete tasks on time
- Likes to procrastinate
- Spends most of your time working on mundane activities
How do you eliminate this habit?
- Just Do It: Instead of waiting till the last time and hoping that the task will complete itself, simply start. Once you’ve started, you can divide the tasks into sections and develop a schedule for each section.
- Get Help: If you can’t handle the task, ask for help from friends, colleagues, family, etc.
- Self-Praise: Pair the task with something enjoyable. This means that you reward yourself after completing a section by engaging in an enjoyable task.
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|Poor Organizational Skills||✓|
|Lack of Concentration||✓|
|Avoiding Time Consuming Tasks||✓|
The best remedy will always be to seek medical attention from a qualified professional. The list of ADHD and ADD symptoms discussed above will help determine if your child has ADD or ADHD, but the doctor will ultimately have the final say.
If it’s confirmed that you have either of these conditions, it’s not the end. You can learn to live with it, and if you’re young, the symptoms might reduce as you age. If they don’t, seek professional help on how to manage the ADHD and ADD symptoms and the condition.
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Get More Help
Dealing with ADD/ADHD can be overwhelming, which is why organizations such as the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder organization are offering to help.