Attention Deficit Disorder Without Hyperactivity

Characteristics of ADD without hyperactivity

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

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ADD is a term that is sometimes used for one of the presentations of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a neurological disorder that causes a range of behavior problems such as difficulties with attending to instruction, focusing on schoolwork, keeping up with assignments, following instructions, completing tasks, and social interaction.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), this condition is officially known as "attentional deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation."

While the term ADD is technically outdated, it is still sometimes used colloquially to refer to someone who has difficulty staying focused but does not experience symptoms of hyperactivity.

Symptoms of ADD (Inattentive Type ADHD)

People with the inattentive type of ADHD struggle to pay attention or stay focused for long periods of time. Some of the symptoms of this type of ADHD include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing personal items such as keys or books
  • Not paying attention to details
  • Problems staying organized
  • Short attention span

Children with ADHD without the hyperactivity component may appear to be bored or disinterested in classroom activities. They may be prone to daydreaming or forgetfulness, work at a slow pace, and turn in incomplete work.

Their assignments may look disorganized as well as their desks and locker spaces. They may lose materials at school and at home or misplace schoolwork and fail to turn in assignments. This can frustrate teachers and parents and result in the child earning poor marks in class. Behavior intervention may counter the child's forgetfulness.

ADD vs. ADHD: What's the Difference?

While many people continue to use the terms ADD and ADHD interchangeably, it is important to recognize that they are not the same. Here are some key points to be aware of:

  • ADD is an older term for what is now known as the inattentive type of ADHD. 
  • The term ADHD has been used to describe both inattentive and hyperactive types since the mid-1990s.
  • However, some people continue to use the term ADD as a way to indicate that the condition does not include hyperactivity as a symptom.
  • The DSM-5 currently recognizes three subtypes of ADHD: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type.

Inattentive type ADHD does not manifest itself in the same way that predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type or combined type do. Children with these presentations have different symptoms.

Children with the other two presentations of ADHD, for example, tend to act out or exhibit behavior problems in class. Children with inattentive type ADHD are generally not disruptive in school. They may even sit in class quietly, but that doesn't mean their disorder isn't a problem and that they're not struggling to focus. In addition, not all children with inattentive type ADHD are alike.

Diagnosis

If you suspect your child has ADHD, talk to your child's school counselor, teacher, or physician about appropriate treatment. If you have any concerns, begin these discussions today. Earlier intervention can ensure that your child experiences fewer disruptions as a result of their condition.

Your pediatrician may recommend seeing a child psychologist who can do formal testing to see if your child fits the criteria for ADHD and where they happen to be on the spectrum. Not only can this testing help differentiate ADHD from other issues that may be causing difficulty with schoolwork, but it can be used to follow a child's response to interventions over time.

Depending on your child's symptoms, they may be diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type ADHD, or combined type ADHD.

Treatment

There is no cure for ADHD, but treatment can help children manage their symptoms and improve daily functioning. Treatment for ADHD often involves medications, behavioral interventions, or a combination of the two. The type of treatment chosen depends on the child's symptoms and needs.

Medications

ADHD may be treated with stimulant medications or non-stimulant medications.  These medications can help students with inattentive type ADHD stay on task and focused.

Stimulant medications include Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine). Non-stimulant medications can be helpful for those who experience unwanted side effects from stimulants and include Strattera (atomoxetine) and Intuniv (guanfacine).

Behavior Management

Whether or not parents choose medication as a treatment option, most physicians and child psychologists suggest that a behavior intervention plan should be developed to help teach kids adaptive behavior skills and reduce off-task and inattentive behaviors. Behavioral interventions may include behavior modification, parent training, social skills training, and school interventions.

There may be an advantage of behavior intervention plans in the long term, as these adaptations may result in lasting improvements in concentration skills that medication cannot provide.

A Word From Verywell

If you think that your child may have ADD, it is important to talk to your child's doctor. Effective treatments are available that can help kids who struggle with inattention, and early intervention can prevent the disorder from taking a detrimental toll on a child's life.

Some parents fear that if they have their child evaluated for ADHD, they will be stigmatized. It's important to talk to your child so that they know that everyone has different skills and abilities. By getting treatment, you can help your child develop new skills and ways of coping with their symptoms.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms and diagnosis of ADHD. Reviewed September 21, 2020.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Updated January 12, 2021.