Attention Deficit Disorder or Something Else? 

Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity, has been in the news and in our vocabulary for quite awhile.  While it is one of the most common disorders in childhood and adolescence, it is also the most frequently misdiagnosed symptom in the field of clinical neuroscience.


Deficits of attention can co-exist with Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette's syndrome, Brain injury, several medical conditions, as well as Asperger's and high functioning Autism.  The real question here is, how is a parent to know if it really is Attention Deficit Disorder.  When a parent becomes concerned about this a complete evaluation is the only way in which they can put their mind at rest. 

A brief 15 minute evaluation in the Pediatrician's office may diagnose the more simple and uncomplicated ADD, but the more difficult to diagnose and understand disorders will often be missed.  Symptoms of ADD vary from a profound inability to understand what has been learned, messy and disorganized behavior, seemingly in a daze or appearing confused with simple directions, to many other symptoms.  Auditory processing difficulties are very common with this population and they may need assistance with Special Education in the educational setting. 

Hyperactivity Myth

The real myth about ADD is the term "hyperactivity".  While hyperactivity may be present in a child or adolescent, it doesn't have to be.  In fact, girls are very likely not to be hyperactive and instead may simply sit and stare out the window at school.  The old saying that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" is very true in today's educational settings. Hyperactive boys disrupt the class and therefore receive more referrals out for assistance than do girls who do not demonstrate hyperactivity.  The main symptom in ADD is the inability to focus and concentrate in settings that require this skill.  Memory and behavior may also be compromised.  

Attention Deficit Disorder versus Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The following is a simple breakdown of some of the differences between the two major types of attention deficit:

ADD Characteristics
Honors other's boundaries 
Overly Polite
Socially Withdrawn
Bonds with others but doesn't attract friends

AD/HD Characteristics
Physically Hyperactive
Show Off/Egotistical
Attracts friends but doesn't easily bond
More prone toward Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorders 

Thorough Evaluation

Attention Deficit Disorder is not diagnosed with any particular test, brain scan, or other devices.  The diagnosis is arrived at after careful review with the parents or spouse of the individual's behavior, school results, school or behavior records, and so forth.  When all other issues have been ruled out and the individual still meets the diagnostic criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, then the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder is appropriate.


Too often individuals with behavioral disorders are treated by those that lack the expertise and experience to properly diagnose and treat behavioral disorders.  If you suspect that you or a loved one are affected by a behavioral disorder, contact a qualified behavioral healthcare professional