What is Adult ADD and how is it different from childhood ADHD / ADD?

Attention Deficit Disorder is a collection of specific traits that reflects or affects a person (or child’s)  natural neurological nature

ADD or ADHD signSome Positive traits include spontaneity, creativity and the ability to lock onto and hyper focus on tasks of the child’s own choosing. However, there are also some traits that may present some potential problems. These include selective attention, easily distracted, impulsive and sometimes hyperactivity.  Your child may exhibit some of these positive or negative traits, not necessarily all of them. Depending on how these are perceived and treated, the specific combination of your child’s traits can work to either their  advantage or disadvantage.

Pretty much all children are impulsive, easily distracted, and inattentive some of the time, but ADD children are like this most of the time. 

Attention Deficit Disorder is not just a problem in children.  If you were diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD, chances are, you’ve carried at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. But even if you were never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, it doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult. Research shows in general that one in 33 adults or 4% of the total adult population in the world suffer with Attention Deficit Disorder.

ADD poses a lot of challenges and understanding why your child behaves in a certain way, will help you meet these challenges.



Some traits readily seen in children diagnosed with ADD / ADHD:

  • Sustained  attention: “ They can’t finish something he started or stick to the task at hand”.
  • Hyper focus: “They are fine when doing their own thing, like watching TV and it may even be difficult to get their attention from the activity”.
  • Switching of attention: “They fins it difficult to switch for one activity to another and will still be talking about the previous activity even though the group/class has moved on to the next activity”.
  • “This is so boring!”: Often a complaint from an ADD student. Parents and teachers should understand that material itself is not the only problem.
  • Filtering of information: “An ADD child is often unable to filter out background information.   They can’t hear instructions when there is too much background noise and so, can’t commit it to memory or act on a given task”.
  • Highly Distract-able: “Their thoughts seem scattered.   They have many different ideas popping into their mind, faster than one can keep up.  At this point they normally tune out while being spoken to”. Thom Hartman compares an ADD person, to a hunter who is constantly scanning his environment for signs of prey or danger. So in class the hunter’s mind notices someone’s new shoes, and another student paging through their book while supposedly listening to the teacher.”
  • Very impulsive: “They act before they think.   Sometimes just blurts things out and makes careless errors, like adding when the sign is for subtraction”. An ADD person tends to be accident prone, loses things and breaks things, acts impulsively in social situations and in the classroom. They sometimes tells lies impulsively and is intensely curious.
  • Hyperactivity: “The ADHD person is always on the move and finds it difficult to keep their hands and feet still and when forced to sit still, can even fall asleep at times”.

Other inborn traits:

  • Intensity: Being very intense may get some ADD children labelled as trouble makers or domineering.
  • Tendency to overreact: ADD children can be very enthusiastic, but can also react as if their whole world has just collapsed. They need their needs to be met immediately and find it hard to postpone activities they find pleasurable.
  • Managed by the moment: They are governed by what is happening now. They don’t learn from their past, nor do they think very far into the future.
  • A need for frequent rewards:  ADD children cannot be tempted by a reward that is a whole morning or even an hour away.

Other traits include poor handwriting, low arousal level, lack of consistency, poor listening skills, forgetfulness, poor sense of time, trouble with transitions and egocentricity.

On the positive side, ADD children are spontaneous, creative fast thinking, tenacious and have high energy levels with hyper productivity.  Many children with ADD are extraordinarily bright and talented, and this should be encouraged and built on by both teachers and parents in a positive way.


In adults, ADD often looks quite different than it does in children and its symptoms are unique to each individual.

According to Dr. Hallowell, an expert in this field, Attention Deficit Disorder may manifest in the following ways:

  • A sense of underachievement. As if your goals are not achieved
    despite the fact that you are working hard at it.
  • ADD adults find it very difficult to organise yourself.
  • Chronic postponement or procrastination – they find it
    very hard after starting a task to finish it, and will often have mutliple
    tasks running at the sametime, but not finishing most of them.
  • The tendency to speak your mind and not necessarily taking into consideration the timing or appropriateness of the comments.
    (No filter)
  • Ongoing quest for stimulating activities.
  • Irritable when bored.
  • Easily distracted. Difficulty focusing attention. A
    tendency to lose interest during a conversation, especially if there is
    background noise or in a group setting.
  • Often creative, intuitive and highly intelligent.
  • Problem following established procedure.
  • Intolerant and low tolerance of frustration.
  • Impulsive (verbally or in action), for example when spending money.
  • Changing plans, work regularly and moody.
  • Tendency to worry needlessly and is on the lookout for anything to be concerned about.
  • Feeling of insecurity.
  • Mood swings, blazè, especially apathetic to a person or project.
  • Physical or cognitive restlessness.
  • Tendency of habit-forming behaviour.
  • Chronic problems with self-esteem.
  • Inaccurate self-observation.
  • Family history of ADD manic/depressive disorder and impulse control.

Not all of these traits manifests in any one person diagnosed
with ADD, but a combination of select traits will affect an adult ADD person.

Attention Deficit Disorder must be identified by a professional, registered expert, for example, Neurologist, Psychiatrist or Psychologist. For the diagnosis to be given to an adult, the individual must have symptoms which began in childhood and are ongoing.

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