When Anxiety and ADHD Coexist

Anxiety and ADHD are two different disorders with different symptoms. Nevertheless, it is typical for the two to coexist.

Anxiety symptoms are frequently seen in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a matter of fact, anxiety disorders affect over half of individuals with ADHD.

There are certain symptoms that are comparable amongst the illnesses, making differentiation challenging. Moreover, this may make diagnosis and treatment approaches more difficult.

Although there is a direct correlation between anxiety and ADHD, you can develop a coping mechanism for one or both of them with the correct management plan.


What is the relationship between anxiety and ADHD?

Having difficulty focusing and being restless are two of the main symptoms of ADHD that can interfere with day-to-day living and make it difficult to complete tasks or fulfill commitments.

William “Billy” Roberts, an Ohio-licensed independent social worker, claims that having ADHD makes daily life unpleasant. Roberts oversees a private practice that treats ADHD patients only.

“Personal organization and forgetfulness are persistent challenges for individuals with ADHD since ADHD is an executive functioning disorder.” He clarifies. Someone with ADHD is left wondering all the time, “Where did I leave this? Alternatively, when was that meeting?”

As a result, tension and anxiety may increase.

Here are some other explanations for the co-occurrence of anxiety and ADHD:

  • Drugs – Ritalin is one of the several stimulant-containing drugs used to treat ADHD. This could exacerbate anxiety symptoms or perhaps induce them. Anxiety, for instance, is a typical adverse effect of Adderall, a drug that is widely recommended to treat ADHD.

  • Genetics – Research suggests that the relationship between ADHD and sadness and anxiety may be explained by genes.

  • Trauma – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects between 12% and 37% of individuals with ADHD at some point in their lives.

Premature birth and environmental factors are two more risk factors for ADHD. These may also be anxiety risk factors.


Does having ADHD exacerbate my anxiety?

Given the compelling evidence linking anxiety and ADHD, you might be wondering if your anxiety exacerbates your ADHD or vice versa.

In a nutshell: Maybe. A person’s worry may exacerbate common symptoms of ADHD, such as fidgeting, difficulty focusing, and feeling overwhelmed.

Additionally, it is typical for one ailment to make the other worse.

“Confrontations like important decisions and tough talks can become even more challenging while dealing with ADHD,” says Charna Cassell, a trauma therapist, licensed family and marriage therapist, and the creator of the Center for Passionate Living in California. “A feeling of challenge or overwhelm might contribute to elevated anxiety levels.”

Cassell also highlights the fact that one aspect of anxiety that is frequently disregarded is perfectionism. According to her, “therefore they may experience even greater worry if their ADHD is stopping them from fulfilling their standards.”

According to Robinson, there is a good chance that anxiety symptoms will worsen in those who have both ADHD and anxiety. “As the executive, working section of the brain is responsible for emotional regulation, ADHD is also a problem of emotional regulation,” the speaker claims.

This may exacerbate anxiety symptoms and make them more difficult to overcome.


How can you distinguish between ADHD and anxiety?

There is frequently overlap between anxiety and ADHD symptoms. Among the symptoms they have in common are:

  • having trouble focusing

  • difficulty finishing tasks and adhering to deadlines

  • agitation

  • divertissement

  • sleeplessness

Making the distinction between the two might be challenging due to their similarities. However, it is crucial to remember the following:

  • The main symptoms of anxiety are trepidation, fear, and worry.

  • The three main characteristics of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.

By examining when your symptoms first appeared, you may also be able to distinguish between your anxiety and ADHD.


Typically, ADHD first manifests in childhood. Anxiety typically manifests in adolescence and adulthood, however the National Institute of Mental Health notes that ADHD can persist throughout adolescent and adulthood.


“Is it the anxiety producing the problem focusing, or is the inability to focus creating the anxiety?” is a crucial question to ask while attempting to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms. said Leawood, Kansas-based board-certified psychiatrist and ADHD clinical expert Dr. Sasha Hamdani, MD.

To “untie” the two, think about consulting a mental health expert or an ADHD specialist.


How to handle anxiety and ADHD

If you have access to one, a medical or mental health expert can assist you in creating a management strategy that will enable you to manage both disorders. If you are unable to get services in person, you may want to look into online or phone telehealth help.

According to Dr. Hamdani, “proper diagnosis and care is the first step.” “To determine if this is ADHD, anxiety, or an underlying medical issue mirroring these conditions, it is vital to see a skilled professional.”

One thing to think about is whether condition impacts you more, or has a bigger influence on your day-to-day functioning: anxiety or ADHD. Your management plan may benefit from this.

A comprehensive assessment may also be required to exclude the potential for trauma co-occurrence.

According to Cassell, “what some label as ADHD actually has a basis in trauma.” “Tracking people and their surroundings and being extremely vigilant are traits associated with ADHD.”

Furthermore, “there is going to be more anxiety in a hyper vigilant condition,” according to Cassell.

A prescription for medication can be part of your treatment regimen. However, given the possibility of pharmaceutical adverse effects, therapy may be desirable.

For you and your family, condition-specific psycho-education may be one such form of therapy.

If you are wondering if your anxiety may affect your ADHD therapy, you may be one of many people who have experienced the co-occurrence of anxiety and ADHD.

If the drugs you are using to treat your ADHD symptoms are making your anxiety symptoms worse, this might be the case.

But be aware that over time, the negative effects of ADHD drugs usually go away.


Research on anxiety, ADHD, and the COVID-19 pandemic

According to the CDC, anxiety increased as a result of the pandemic. Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on symptoms of people with ADHD, a study indicates that although stress levels in adults with ADHD were somewhat elevated, symptoms of ADHD were not exacerbated by the pandemic.


However, experts note that the alterations to our daily schedules brought on by the epidemic made symptoms of both diseases worse.

“As adults and children with both problems have had to manage blurring job, school, and home boundaries, the pandemic has heightened both anxiety and ADHD symptoms,” according to Roberts.

Dr. Hamdani concurs that persons with anxiety and ADHD have found it difficult to cope with the pressures of additional responsibilities at home, social isolation, and general instability.

According to Dr. Hamdani, “those with ADHD have had trouble delegating, organizing, and digesting with this increased intensity.” “They may become even more overwhelmed and further behind as a result of this.”

However, there are several coping mechanisms for anxiety and ADHD symptoms.


Techniques to manage anxiety and ADHD

Anxiety and ADHD are commonly treated with medication, counseling, or a mix of the two. However, you can control both illnesses with the help of some lifestyle modifications.

According to Roberts, “those with anxiety and ADHD can manage both illnesses to cope.” Developing strategies to reduce forgetfulness is beneficial for those with ADHD.

Roberts also emphasizes the value of picking up techniques to assist control anxiety, such meditation. Regular meditation can assist individuals in recognizing their emotions and distinguishing between those that are grounded in reality and those that are inflated anxieties.

Here are some more self-care techniques you may want to think about:

  • yoga techniques for awareness

  • techniques for deep breathing

  • dietary modifications

  • enough rest and exercise


So what happens next?

Anxiety and ADHD are two different disorders, each with unique characteristics. However, they can also work hand in hand.

The good news is that it is very easy to handle both.

If you have access to one, think about speaking with a mental health expert to distinguish between the illnesses and to develop a management strategy that fits your needs and way of life.

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