Can you have ADD and ADHD?

Can you have ADD and ADHD?


Great question! The answer is yes…and  no.

Let’s start with,

‘No it’s not possible to have both ADD and ADHD.’

If someone told you,  ‘I have Chickenpox and Chickenpox,’ it would sound strange because they are telling you something twice.

The same is true if you say,  ‘I have ADD and ADHD’ because they are two names for the same condition.

Why Are There Two Names?

The confusion comes from the fact that the condition we now call ADHD has had many names over the years. Here are a few examples….some are a little offensive to our modern ears.

  • Mental restlessness
  • Abnormal defect of moral control in children
  • Hyperkinetic Impulse Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

ADD was the official name for the condition from 1980-1987, and many people still use  ADD to describe Inattentive ADHD.

In 1987, ADHD became the new official name. As with many things, there were pros and cons to this name. A pro  is it recognizes that hyperactivity is an important component of the condition. A con is it  alienated many people who did not identify with the ‘H’.

Thirty years later ADHD is  frequently used to describe someone who has both hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Yes, It Is Possible to Have Both ADD and ADHD.

If we go by the premise above that ADD refers to inattention and ADHD refers to hyperactivity, then it is possible to have both. However, using today’s terminology you would have ‘ADHD combined ’ or more accurately ’Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Presentation.’ 

What are the current terms for ADHD?

In May 2013, the most recent DSM was published, DSM-5. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the gold standard for doctors and mental health professionals when they are assessing and diagnosing all mental health conditions. With each publication the diagnosis criteria for ADHD and its official name of has changed slightly to reflect the new research and understanding of the condition.

Here are the different types of ADHD:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, combined presentation

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation.

The term presentation (rather than subtypes) is used to acknowledge that ADHD is not a fixed condition. It changes with age and situations.

Diagnosing Combined ADHD

ADHD combined is the most common type of ADHD and the most researched.

The DSM-5 provides the criteria that clinicians use when assessing a patient for ADHD.

It lists 9 inattentive ADHD symptoms  and 9 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD combined  presentation an adult (17 years or older) has five or more symptoms from the list of inattentive ADHD systems and 5 or more symptoms from the hyperactive/impulsive list.

Also, they must meet the following criteria:

  • The characteristics have been present for 6 months or more
  • The symptoms were present before 12 years old (although you might not have been diagnosed)
  • The traits affect your life in 2 or more settings (e.g. home and work)
  • The symptoms impact performance so you are not able to perform to your full potential
  • The symptoms aren’t due to another condition, such as bipolar disorder, sleep disorder or anxiety.

If a person meets the criteria above, they can be diagnosed with ADHD combined presentation.

Not Everyone Agrees

Not everyone agrees with the new terminology. Dr. Amen, author of many ADHD books, including Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD, is quite vocal about his disagreement. He doesn’t agree that hyperactivity should be included in the name when a person just has inattention.

Some people who have been diagnosed with ADHD rebel against using the ‘H’ because they don’t resonate with hyperactivity.  It can be helpful to know that hyperactivity is more diverse than having lots of physical energy. Take a look at this list to see some ways in which hyperactivity can appear in your life as an adult.

Even if you don’t like the official terms and choose not to use them,  it is still helpful to know what they are,  so that you feel up to date and informed.

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  1. Hi I’m really struggling with adhd at present so much so I’ve had to have two weeks off work. I can’t get up early enough in the morning which causes problems and me to waste money on taxis making us broke.I’m in a bad place mentally and I’ve carried on for around three weeks and now I’m at breaking point xx

  2. george king says:

    I was clearly a combined ADHD child, but some 80 years later, the physical part of the H is no longer a problem!

  3. This was a really interesting article and a topic that I had not thought too much about. Overall, I don’t think the actual label matters too much. The important thing is learning how to more effectively manage your ADD or ADHD symptoms. Medications only help with some ADHD symptoms. There are others, including some who deal with additional mental health symptoms that are related to their ADHD symptoms.

    I have heard a lot of different theories behind the terms ADD and ADHD. Some people believe the “H” goes away when a child with ADHD reaches adulthood. However, I have found in my own personal experience that this is not true. The symptoms of both are very similar and can be managed in similar ways. It is important to recognize the different strategies, routines, changes in diet, supplementation, and medication when required that may be necessary to treat either ADD or ADHD.

    Thanks again for writing about an interesting topic and debate!

  4. sean howes says:

    How do I get people to understand or explain with out completely disturbing people?

  5. Carmen says:

    I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 9 and the doctors made a correction when I was 11 and said I do in fact have ADHD. I read a lot about those two, but mostly it was just about ADHD and people would say: “ADD is the same but without the hyper activity.” However, recently I’ve read that the ADD type has a higher risk of getting depression and anxiety than the ADHD type because they are more thoughtful. Even though I do have trouble to sit still and my body and mind is moving all the time, I sometimes stare at a blank wall for hours and just get totally lost in my toughts. That’s a sign that the hyper activity type should not have. So is it like “unofficially”possible to have both?

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