ADD is not a thing

As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in 1st grade, and as a Special Educator who has worked with many students who also have ADHD, the topic always grabs my….attention. 

A picture of Beckett Haight with hands up in school foto and everyone else was looking somber
Very excited….pre-Ritalin days

I like checking out the tweets, blogs and books that relate to the topic.  That’s why a few years ago I was reading what I think was The ADHD Explosion and I learned that in 2013 the DSM had folded ADD into the ADHD category, but with two sub-types.

If you are wondering what the DSM is, it stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

This is a picture of the DSM-5
Our psych lent me her copy for a quick photo shoot.

and it’s a big book where we get all our definitions for diagnoses for so much of what we see in the world.  It’s put out by the American Psychiatric Association.

So for example, in order to be diagnosed as having Autism, the professionals administering an evaluation will be considering the characteristics outlined in the DSM-V.  Or on a more somber note, a huge early gay rights battle was to get “ego-dystonic homosexuality” taken out of the DSM (Wikipedia, 2018); to say that having feelings for someone of the same sex is not a diagnosable mental condition but rather something that is natural.


In the case of ADHD it is seen in the DSM as:

Subtype 1:  Inattentive – This is where the person may be easily distracted or often gets lost in thought, for example.  These are the cats that can take longer to get diagnosed because they may slip through the cracks for a few extra years…or longer.

Subtype 2:  Hyperactive  – This is where you might think of some famous Youtubers who are impulsive, kind of all over the place etc.

Combined:  You have 6 or more of the characteristic symptoms for both inattentive and hyperactive ADHD.

                                                                                                             (Source:  ADHD Institute)

Since reading The ADHD Explosion and learning about ADHD and the two sub-types a few years ago, now when talking with other professionals or families I have started saying ADHD and then adding the inattentive sub-type when applicable so people knew I was more referring to ADD.

But over the years I have had several parents and educators correct me, thinking that I had misspoke, so I have had the idea of addressing this issue for some time.  So here it is.

There is no such thing as ADD! 



Where did the term ADD come from and when did it go away?

According to Healthline’s history of ADHD  the term ADD was introduced into the DSM in 1980.  But since that time the nomenclature has fluctuated a bit.  And while the term ADHD is the official name now, the ADD title still is very present.  In trying to figure out why that is I can only think that with the increased diagnosis of ADHD since the 90’s, and the increased mainstream presence of “ADD meds” for people who use it for other purposes, I gather that the term ADD picked up some steam and it will take awhile for it to shift….or maybe the DSM will shift in the meantime!

So that’s basically it.  Since 2013 and the updated DSM manual (yes, that’s redundant), there is no more ADD.

I think it’s all good either way.  For example, I’m pretty sure Dr. Ned Hallowel (Driven from Distraction; Distraction podcast, etc.) said that he still uses the term ADD just to not throw people off.  But I guess the purpose for me to throw this out here in the atmosphere is so we can get the word out that professionals are starting to identify people as having ADHD, but one of the sub-types (or combined).

Or maybe I should just go back to saying ADD when talking about the inattentive sub-type?! 

What would you do?  What do you do? 

Leave a comment below; each one teach one.


3 thoughts on “ADD is not a thing

  1. Hi Beckett

    I knew u before Polly and Boyd adopted u. U lived with me for awhile before going to them. I am a Sp Ed teacher too. So happy u are doing splendidly.
    Lynne Bush


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