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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

There is No Such Thing as ADD

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 2nd 2009

adhdkidAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has received a lot of attention in the media in the last decade or so. In children it is often seen as difficulty sustaining attention, at times bouncing off the walls and having trouble in school. In general, in adults there are similar symptoms, but affecting work and relationships. However, there is a lot of confusion around the terminology of ADHD. Many years ago, it was often referred, even professionally as ADD, but in the last two iterations of the "bible" of Psychology (Diagnostic Statistical Manual or DSM IV-TR) it has been referred to as ADHD. However, the media and general public continue to refer to this issue as ADD and it can get confusing. So why has it been changed to ADHD?

The people who create the DSM wanted to make it one name to be clearer and then give it three subtypes. So, here they are and if anybody in the media is reading this right now, it's time to correct your terminology.

ADHD: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive

This is often seen when a person has most symptoms in the hyperactivity category and can still have some inattentive characteristics

ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive

This is where the majority of symptoms show up as characteristics of inattention with some potentially still being characteristics of hyperactivity.

ADHD: Combined Type

You guessed it; the majority of symptoms hit both of these areas. The reason most people think of inattentive children bouncing off the walls when anyone refers to ADHD is because that is currently what the majority have been found to be.

ADHD can be difficult to diagnose at times because people come in presenting with features that seem like anxiety and depression. However, often times underneath is ADHD that have spawned these features.

More than just children, millions of adults struggle with ADHD, often times undiagnosed. Currently, the belief is that if adults have ADHD, they have to have had it when they were children too. This may change in the future.

We all have some degree of inattentiveness and impulsivity at times. These run across a spectrum. The only time this becomes a if it is a problem. In other words, if it is causing you distress, it's a very good idea to go get it checked out by a skilled Healthcare professional.

Do you have ADHD or anyone you know? What has been your experience? Please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit form.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

ADD vs. Sex Addiction - Geoffrey - Apr 23rd 2014

Your female writer was interesting.  I think the fact that she went to grad school says that ADD or ADHD was not her problem.  (Excuse the simple use of the term)

The problem I have is that men and women are completely different, remember the book title "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? or something to that effect, the title says it all.  Men and women are so different that, however much I appreciate a woman's perspective on ADD, it will most likely only apply to women.

My issue is, however, completely different.  I say, "There Is No Such Thing As ADD"  At least for men.  I really can't explain what happens when a woman displays symptoms of ADD.  I intend that a woman's desire for sex is completely different from a man’s.

Which brings me to my point.  I have a theory that there is no such thing as ADD or ADHD.  My theory is that the symptoms of ADD only manifest themselves when a man develops a Sex Addiction.  (Again, I don't know about women).

I am not a professional.  I have no degree to speak of.  However, I have had a sexual addiction all my life.  Most men I have met that have a sexual addiction also have been diagnosed with ADD.  I've met men who can climax several times a day, and I've met men who were sexually abused and became sex addicts because of it.  And I’ve met men who have a sexual addiction and are profoundly smart and educated.  It would take a great deal of explaining to tell you what brings me to this conclusion but I don't want to explain it if you (Dr.) are not interested.  I will say this, I am not opposed to being proven wrong but if I can save a couple of kids from going through what I've gone through, I'll be happy.


Thankful for an answer - Allison - Mar 11th 2010

Imagine having a brand new tool box, a lot of hardware, and plenty of lumber.  You have the task of building playground equipment for your children.  You know how to use the tools, you know what the hardware is and what it does, the lumber is all cut to size for you, and you know what the equipment is supposed to look like.  Chances are you could put together something that resembles a swing set/slide/playhouse combo.  It will probably function.  There may be a crooked piece here and a bent nail there.  Perhaps one swing is longer than another and the slide has a few extra nail holes in it.  There’s a good chance a strong wind or rough storm may get the best of the child paradise; however it will serve it’s purpose for the time being.

Getting diagnosed with ADHD and getting the proper treatment for it was like receiving the instruction manual for the swing/slide/playhouse combo.  I was able to make the connections between what each bolt, nut, screw, and nail did and where specific pieces fit. 

I went through high school and college with around a 2.3 gpa always frustrated.  I knew this was not a reflection of my intelligence.  It’s a different kind of frustrating.  Not the, “I’m just and idiot” type but more of a, “what am I missing?”   When I finally made the leap to grad school I knew I needed to get tested for ADHD.  Being a mental health professional I was knowledgeable about possible signs.  The testing confirmed my frustrations.  I tested at a superior intelligence level (which is very common for someone with ADHD) and after 8 rigorous and sometimes mentally painful hours of testing the psychologist confirmed my diagnosis.  I first turned to the literature that my psychologist recommended (Delivered from Distraction by Hallowell and Ratly) which was a great read for anyone ADHD or not.  I was encouraged.  Many of the behavior modification techniques I had already been using and I was unaware. 

After much thought, I went back to my primary doctor who referred me to the psychologist and discussed medication.  I was very cautious and only agreed to try a medication that was short acting and on a PRN basis making me feel like I was in control of it.  The differences have been amazing.  It was like having a box full of files ready to be filed piling up over the last 28 years finally being filed correctly.  I have had the information all along.  I can now access it freely.  It was also filed in a manner allowing for easy cross-referencing.  Making connections between all the information happens with ease. 

As far as my current academic functioning is concerned, I am positive most of my instructors would never believe that I got through high school and college with a 2.3.  The difference in my academics is night and day!  It can almost be emotional for me at times.  Finally getting validation after so many years of trying relentlessly to prove I was more than an “average” student has a way of making me excited to receive assignments back instead of dreading the disappointment.


Drat I suppose I am but a young ignoramus... - daydreamidealist - Oct 21st 2009

I have been calling my condition ADD for some time now (because it's easier to explain than ADHD--I am not hyperactive by any means).

Not sure I will now change my ways, but it's nice to know anyway...


thanks - - Oct 5th 2009

thanks, so many of the therapists that work under me, and are younger, erroneously say "ADD' and it drives me batty.

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