There is a wide range of physical, behavioral and emotional characteristics associated with AD/HD. These characteristics have both positive and negative aspects that can vary with sex and age.

Common Differences Between ADD and ADHD


The acronym ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. A person with this disorder is seldom oppositional, aggressive or noncompliant because they do not wish to bring any unneeded attention to themselves. They are usually unaware of events in their surroundings because they are inwardly focused, which can make them socially isolated from everyone around them. The ADD student may have academic difficulties similar to the ADHD student but many times will put forth much more effort to accomplish things that are difficult for them.


The acronym ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A person with ADHD has symptoms of overactivity, hyperactivity and impulsivity in addition to the symptoms of ADD such as inattention. The ADHD student is usually disruptive in class and restless so they are constantly tapping, yawning or making repetitive physical movements. They may also have difficulty falling asleep at night and, as a result, exhibit signs of mental fatigue.

YES, AD/HD has Positive Aspects

AD/HD can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the environment. AD/HD is a disadvantage in schools only because public schools generally require the AD/HD person to have a set of behavioral characteristics that they do not have. AD/HD students have a tendency to give up on themselves with the belief that they can never accomplish anything because of their disorder. However, students with AD/HD are, on the average, extremely intelligent and have great potential that is just waiting to be recognized. In order to excel in life, they need to take advantage of their AD/HD characteristics and find a work environment which suits their needs.

Risk Taking

People with AD/HD are more willing to try something new, step into unknown territory and take the risk of being original. As a result, it is usually the people with AD/HD that spark change in society and overcome great obstacles by thinking "outside of the box."

Intrinsic Motivation

People with AD/HD are willing to pursue things for their own interests and goals, not for a grade or to meet other people’s expectations. As a result, people with AD/HD can be tenacious and stick with a problem and solve it because it truly interests them. This type of attitude usually produces brilliant work.

Think Differently

  • They have different way of analyzing problems because they take a non-linear approach to solving them. That is, they look at problems from several different directions at once, which gives them the ability to think out of the box and come up with truly original ideas.
  • They have good insight skills and good intuition.
  • They have the ability to relate seemingly unrelated events.
  • They are usually very creative.
  • They have good visual spatial skills.
  • They may simply be able to look at something to determine how it works.
  • They have the ability to absorb all of their surroundings at once, which allows them to react and adapt quickly to any change in their environment.
  • They usually have a wide range of interests.

The following symptoms can be classified as either positive or negative depending on the situation.

Physical Symptoms of AD/HD

  • Much slower physical maturity so they are usually thinner and smaller than others their age.
  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Trouble waking up.
  • Exhibit high tolerance for pain.
  • Exhibit more physical aliments such as colds, allergies, and ear infections.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Difficulty with auditory and verbal processing.
  • Prone to mispronunciation of words or saying one word when they mean another.

Behavioral symptoms of AD/HD


Someone with AD/HD does not focus on one event but rather tries to absorb everything in their surroundings. Due to their difficulty with filtering out extraneous stimuli, people with AD/HD are easily overwhelmed, and thus distracted, resulting in the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty following directions.
  • Difficulty sticking to and completing tasks.
  • Abnormal perception of stimuli.
  • Difficulty focusing on any one subject for a prolonged period of time.


Impulsitivity is simply a lack of self-control and acting without thinking of the consequences of your actions, which results in the following symptoms:

  • Impulsive spending.
  • Focusing on the immediate gains and instant satisfaction.
  • Engages in risk taking and thrill seeking behavior.
  • More prone to peer pressure, such as drugs and sex, especially during the teenage years.
  • Strong mood swings and emotional ups and downs.
  • Very blunt and straight forward because they may talk without thinking about what they are saying and without considering the effects their words might have.
  • Multiple marriages and relationships that are short but intense.
  • Abusive relationships.

Hyper attending

The other aspect to inconsistencies in attention is over attention. It is common for someone with AD/HD to attend very intensely to what they are doing when they find something that interests them. However, this intense interest usually only lasts for a short period of time and usually only happens with activities that are visually stimulating.


Most people associate AD/HD with hyperactivity although ADHD is only a part of the disorder. The symptoms specified below are only seen in people that have ADHD as opposed to ADD.

  • Can't sit still, especially during a non-physical activity such as a lecture.
  • May perform repetitive physical movements.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Over activity.
  • Needs less sleep due to their high energy levels.

Social Skills

A study found that 50% to 80% of AD/HD teens have significant interpersonal difficulties and exhibit many of the following symptoms (Alexander-Roberts 1995)

  • Little eye contact during conversation.
  • Difficulty interpreting the many non-verbal cues that indicate how someone is feeling.
  • Poor peer relationships, especially as teenagers.
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends.
  • May feel lonely and isolated.

Elastic perception of time

An elastic perception of time can cause some activities to pass instantly, when they actually take hours, and other activities to seem endless, when they require only a few minutes. As a result, those with AD/HD may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Chronic procrastination.
  • Class lectures seem to last an eternity.
  • Never on time.
  • Emotional highs and lows have a profound and dramatic impact.
  • May perceive times that they are enjoying to flash by but when they become sad or mad, time seems to slow down.

Emotional results of AD/HD symptoms

Emotional symptoms of AD/HD are secondary to the cause, meaning that it is not the neurobiology of the brain that causes these symptoms. They are an emotional response to the biological and physiological symptoms of AD/HD. Those with AD/HD may experience the following emotional symptoms:

  • Self-blame for their learning differences.
  • Low self esteem.
  • Negative self image.
  • Overwhelming guilt and shame.
  • Feelings that they are stupid, lazy and even worthless.
  • Depression.
  • They never seem to fit in and so feel like outcasts.

Academic Results of AD/HD symptoms

Whether a person has ADD or ADHD greatly changes the way their disorder affects them academically.


  • Difficulties staying on task.
  • They are the class clown so they are constantly distracted at school.

AD/HD (with and without hyperactivity)

  • Frustration during work and school.
  • Spending excessive time studying or doing work.
  • Afraid of making mistakes so they constantly check and recheck their work.
  • Difficulty with organization.
  • Difficulty with test taking and note taking.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • May find that they can do very well at a task one day but poorly the next.

Adulthood AD/HD

AD/HD is recognized by slightly different symptoms at different ages. A major change occurs in the progression from school age, including the college years, to independent adulthood. In general, adulthood is more enjoyable than childhood for those with AD/HD.

  • Life can become much easier and more manageable.
  • More freedom to do what they want.
  • They can pick a job and a lifestyle that suits their behavior and personality and take advantage of the positives aspects of their disorder.
  • Better ability to control their behavior.
  • Less hyperactivity and explosiveness.
  • Typically viewed as creative, high energy and enthusiastic people.

Gender differences

Genetically, the probability of having AD/HD is equal for both males and females. Each gender exhibits the same core symptoms, although boys exhibit more severe signs of almost all of the core AD/HD symptoms, especially hyperactivity. For this reason, males are typically diagnosed much more often than females.

ADHD Look-Alikes

Similarities of AD/HD symptoms with other disorders can present many difficulties in diagnosing AD/HD properly. Many times, AD/HD symptoms are mistaken for another disorder or vice-versa. The common disorders and situations that AD/HD can be confused with are:

  • Depression.
  • Manic depression.
  • Anxiety disorder.
  • Seasonal affective disorder.
  • Child abuse.
  • Child neglect.


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