Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two attention disorders that affect approximately two million children in the United States. While the main difference between these two disorders is the presence of hyperactivity in one and not the other, the terms ADD and ADHD are often incorrectly used interchangeably to describe any person with attention deficit disorder. The exact cause of ADD and ADHD is unknown, but doctors generally agree that the disorders are organic in nature and appear to have their start in the brain. Physical differences in the brain are thought to be linked to those who suffer from ADD and ADHD as well, and several researchers agree that ADD and ADHD are most likely hereditary, as they tend to run in families.

With that said, it is important to note that ADD and ADHD are not caused by any sort of physical or mental defect. When explaining to young children about ADD or ADHD, it is important to make sure they understand that the presence of the disorder is not their fault and is simply the result of the way their brain works, which is just a little different, but still just as hard as any other childs.

Even though ADD and ADHD have seemingly become synonyms for each other, there is still a key difference between the two that is important to understand. A child diagnosed with ADD may have difficulty paying attention, staying focused, or generally concentrating on abstract tasks. A child diagnosed with ADHD will have the same inattentive symptoms as a child with ADD, but will also appear impulsive, over-flowing with energy, overly impatient, and generally unable to sit still for long periods at a time.

Parents who suspect that their children may have ADD or ADHD often wonder what treatment options are available for their children. It is important to understand that medications won’t cure ADD or ADHD, but they will make symptoms of the disorder much easier to manage. In fact, if medication is stopped, symptoms are likely to return. Also, medication affects different kids in different ways, so some parents may experience overwhelming success while others may only see minimal gains in their child’s performance.

While a strict diet, improved sleeping habits, and behavioral therapy alone have worked for some parents, prescription medications appear to have a much higher success rate for controlling the symptoms of ADD and ADHD.

Medications prescribed to children with ADD and ADHD are most likely going to be stimulants. These medications, and others like them, are believed to work by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, often associated with increasing pleasure, motivation, and attention span, helps children remain focused on the tasks they are assigned.

Common side effects to stimulant-based ADD and ADHD medications may include loss of appetite, headaches, stomach aches, trouble getting to sleep, jitteriness and social withdrawl. These can usually be manged by adjusting the dose and the timing of when the medication is given.

ADD and ADHD are disorders that tend to follow the child into adulthood, but with early detection and enough patience from parents, teachers, and doctors, a child with ADD or ADHD has the same chance for success in their adult life as any of their peers. ADD and ADHD are in most cases relatively easy to manage.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Marshall J. Littman is a San Diego Pediatrician who has been in practice for 35 years. He is also a member of Children's Physicians Medical Group.