Is It ADD Or ADHD? The Answer Is In Looking Past The Label

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For one reason or another, there still seems to be a lot of confusion between ADD or ADHD. I hear from parents all the time, “Oh my child has ADHD without the “H.”

What does it all really mean?

For a long time, the popular term used by professionals and the media was ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. But now there’s all this talk about ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder… Just when we think we know what we are talking about, we go ahead and change the name and confuse everyone. Arrrrrggghhhhhh!!!!

A Name Is A Name Anyway You Put It

Let’s get right down to it. When someone is talking about ADD or ADHD, it is the same thing. So why all the confusion? What’s going on here?

History hasn’t been kind to ADHD. We’ve actually had all sorts of names for the condition since the early 1900’s. And believe it or not, right now, the name is the kindest it’s ever been.

In it’s earlier days and forms…it was referred to as a “brain disorder.” Then it become “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.”

Wow – talk about people being misunderstood.

But seriously… ADD and ADHD are the exact same condition with different packaging and how we talk about it. Most people refer to ADD as the “inattentive type” or the non-hyperactive variety.

But the truth of the matter rests in how we simply label the condition or symptoms we are seeing.

The official term (for now anyway) is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. We then qualify it (according to the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria) as being one of three identified types:

  1. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  2. Predominantly Inattentive Type
  3. Combined Type

Now That We’ve Cleared That Up

We still haven’t answered what it means… And we certaintly haven’t even talked about what difference it really makes.

From where I stand, as far as a label or a name goes, it doesn’t make a difference. Yes! It’s important to know what’s going on with your child. But chances are, you’ve known for quite some time now that your child is different – and how he or she is different.

So let’s agree, or at least agree to disagree, that the name doesn’t really matter in the long run. What matters most is identyfing who your child is and what they need help with.

That’s it – there ain’t no more.

Chalk it up to the ongoing crisis of how misunderstood ADHD is. Chalk it up to the confusion about a condition that we supposedly understand better than any other time in the history of ADHD.

Here’s What Really Matters?

Let me be clear for a moment. From a diagnostic standpoint, it is really important to know what’s going on. There is a reason we have different “types” of ADHD.

But what I want you to focus on is what’s really going on for you… For your child. ADHD is a complex condition that doesn’t present the same way for everyone.

So once you know what you are dealing with (and that’s a lot harder than it sounds OR than most professionals know to tell you anyway), at the end of the day you are still left with symptoms and behaviors that you have to deal with.

They don’t magically go away or get better just by sticking a name on it and labeling everything. Medication doesn’t even do that.

So when all is said and done, you’ve got your diagnosis and now the real work begins. Now comes the hardest part of supporting a loved one who has ADHD… Supporting someone who is different.

And that’s what really matters.

ADHD is a piece of who you are…or who your child is. It doesn’t define them. It doesn’t limit them. And it certainly doesn’t have to be more than a condition if you don’t let it be.

There are a lot of people out there who want you to believe that ADHD means nothing but struggle and negativity. But I simply refuse to accept that, and I challenge you to do the same.

Everyone struggles in some aspect of life. Every single person at one point or another struggles with the same things that a person with ADHD does. And while it’s not even close to being the same thing…it lets you know that people can be successful.

Dr. Stern is a behavior specialist and Internationally recognized ADHD expert.  He is the author of Help Your Child [With ADHD] Succeed, a “How to” blueprint for parents in search of a strength based approach to helping their children succeed.  Dr. Stern offers in-home, on demand virtual coaching and consulting.