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The Definitions of ADD and ADHD

Historically, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), written by the American Psychiatric Association has been the authority on defining mental and emotional disorders in the United States. According to the DSM, ADHD comes in two predominant forms: inattentive type ADHD and hyperactive type ADHD. People can also have a combination of the two.

Inattentive ADHD

The inattentive subtype of ADHD involves difficulty sustaining attention during everyday activities such as conversations, work, chores, lectures, and studying. The person is often distracted by internal thoughts and feelings and/or by external stimuli, and may appear “spacey” or even seem lazy or disinterested. The inattentive subtype doesn’t usually look energetic on the outside, but inside they have an active mind and may be secretly nervous or tense. The term ADD (attention deficit disorder—without the ‘H’ for ‘hyperactivity’) used to be the preferred term for this type, but now the term ‘ADHD – inattentive type’ is the preferred term in psychiatry.

Hyperactive ADHD

The hyperactive ADHD subtype, on the other hand, often fidgets, squirms, feels the need to run or move, talks a lot, is loud or disruptive, demands attention, and lack impulse control. They often seem to be driven by a motor, moving from one activity to the next with energy and gusto. Lacking impulse control, they may seem impatient, blurt out thoughts inappropriately, have a hard time listening to others, and do things on a whim.

How to Address ADHD

Both types of ADHD cause problems in the person’s life and can affect self esteem and confidence. Results from both types include lack of organization, difficulty planning, unfinished projects, and difficulty forming or keeping relationships.

Regardless of the type, ADHD is characterized by lower activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The two types of ADHD in the DSM are somewhat arbitrary, as there are many different “flavors” and severities of ADHD, depending on the over- or under-activity of other parts of the brain. ADHD should be further characterized into subtypes that correspond to improper function in those other areas of the brain.

The cause of ADHD is not an either/or question; it’s contributed to by many things, both psychological and physiological. The science is clear that there are structural differences in the brains of those with ADHD. The epidemiology is also clear that there are nutritional factors and environmental toxins contributing to the rise in ADHD. The good news is that we can identify the causes of ADHD, reverse them, and put the person on track for improved focus and attention. An understanding of the root of the problem unique to the individual is necessary in tailoring a treatment plan for ADHD.

The next article in this ADHD series explains what the core issue is in ADHD. This will prepare you to learn how to address ADHD and support your brain’s healing.

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About Nicholas Hundley, MS, CNS

Nicholas Hundley is a nutritional biochemist and certified nutrition specialist. He is the main author for the MindWhale blog at MindWhale.com. He practices nutrition and can be found at NicholasHundley.com

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