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ADHD And Anxiety: The Connection You May Not Know 2024
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is very similar to anxiety, but can you have ADHD and anxiety simultaneously?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that may coexist with anxiety and depression.
While there are numerous ADHD comorbidities, the most common association is with those of similar symptoms, such as ADHD and anxiety disorders.
ADHD comorbidities can complicate treatment regimens and worsen the condition by introducing new symptoms while exacerbating existing ones.
Patients with ADHD and anxiety may come across as rude due to their impulsive behavior and short attention spans. However, because everyone’s condition is different, ADHD treatment varies from person to person.
It is common for the two disorders to coexist, but can ADHD cause anxiety, or is ADHD an anxiety disorder?
Continue reading to learn the connection between ADHD vs. anxiety and how to manage both ADHD and anxiety in adults and children.
- Anxiety, a comorbid of ADHD, can develop independently or as a result of ADHD symptoms.
- Anxiety affects approximately 50% of ADHD patients in the United States.
- Anxiety and ADHD both have similar symptoms, like distraction, restlessness, insomnia, fidgeting, and poor socialization.
- Comorbid anxiety and ADHD are treated and managed similarly with prescription medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
The Link Between ADHD And Anxiety
Comorbid conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorder are common in adult ADHD patients.
Due to their similarity, it can be challenging to tell whether one suffers from ADHD or anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 50% of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also have anxiety disorders.
ADHD symptoms can harm a patient’s self-esteem, causing anxiety. The inability to follow instructions, organize, complete tasks, and remember details may disrupt a patient’s social life at home, school, or work.
ADHD patients may experience anxiety due to a persistent worry about forgetting essential tasks and facing repercussions for their shortcomings. Anxiety may also be influenced by the same variables that affect ADHD, including preterm birth, genetics, and environmental triggers.
Understanding how ADHD and anxiety coexist is critical when deciding how to treat ADHD and anxiety in adults and children. Amphetamines, often used to treat ADHD, have stimulant effects that may cause or worsen anxiety in specific ADHD cases complicated by feelings of anxiousness.
Anxiety And ADHD Symptoms
Many factors are considered when diagnosing ADHD, including reported symptoms, personal history, mental status, and early development issues of distractibility, emotional instability, inattention, and impulsivity.
As a result, a health professional must conduct a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis because overlapping ADHD and anxiety symptoms can make it hard to differentiate between the two.
Anxiety and ADHD share these most common symptoms:
ADHD types can be distinguished by their predominant characteristics: hyperactivity and impulsiveness, inattentiveness, or a combination of characteristics.
Children with inattentive or combined ADHD may have difficulty concentrating and following instructions. They forget and lose items frequently. Consequently, they often miss assignment deadlines, forget their chores, and can be disorganized.
While it is normal for healthy people to become distracted, people with ADHD can be easily sidetracked by the slightest distractions. For example, they may lose focus or become agitated by visual and auditory disturbances such as graphite noise from a writing pencil, footsteps in another room, or a phone ringing.
Anxiety can cause similar symptoms and can exacerbate ADHD.
While it is natural for children to be playful and distracted, some may exhibit extreme restlessness, a hallmark sign of anxiety and ADHD. Anxiety disorders can lead to constant worry. When ADHD and anxiety symptoms coexist, restlessness can result.
Individuals suffering from ADHD or anxiety have a constant urge to move around and find it challenging to sit in one position. They may also exhibit poor turn-taking skills.
Patients with ADHD and anxiety often have uncontrollable rages or bad moods because of constant worrying.
Clinical trials show 25% to 50% of ADHD patients have sleep-related complications. Patients with ADHD and anxiety may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep when there is little to occupy their curious minds. ADHD medication may also have stimulant effects that cause sleep deprivation.
Furthermore, anxiety causes an increase in heart rate and an adrenaline rush. It activates a natural defensive mechanism called a fight or flight response, which increases strength to counter the threat and speed to escape if necessary.
Anxiety before sleep can also cause thoughts to race, causing patients to fall asleep while still half awake.
Delayed aversion is a coping mechanism used when a patient with ADHD or anxiety lacks the patience to tolerate a boring situation. It occurs during activities that do not provide immediate gratification, such as learning a new skill.
While ordinary people interpret fidgeting as a lack of attention, ADHD patients fidget when they struggle to pay attention. Fidgeting occurs when the activity at hand does not provide enough stimulation to their brains to keep them focused.
ADHD and anxiety patients, for example, fidget to help them concentrate in classroom lessons where they cannot avoid the activity. To satisfy the urge, ADHD patients may converse with friends or play games.
ADHD and anxiety can cause patients to doubt themselves, making them less motivated to pursue social activities.
ADHD and anxiety in children can make them struggle with social skills such as sharing, listening, taking turns, and interpreting or using social cues. Victims become easily bored and distracted during conversations. They may also struggle with emotional management.
Patients with ADHD and anxiety disorders tend to become distracted or dominate conversations, which can appear rude or disinterested to peers. They miss critical developmental activities and are less confident in their abilities because their peers avoid them.
Victims of ADHD and anxiety are, therefore, argumentative and irritable. They are also more likely to lie about unfinished tasks or withdraw from people.
Lastly, they may also develop a negative attitude toward social interactions or avoid them entirely.
Medication For ADHD Anxiety
ADHD treatment options include medication, therapy, or a combination of treatments. Various lifestyle changes can also help to manage the conditions.
ADHD medication options include non-stimulants like atomoxetine (Strattera) or stimulants like amphetamines and methylphenidate.
Stimulants are the first line of treatment for ADHD because they work quickly and effectively. They may, however, worsen anxiety symptoms. However, stimulants can still be used effectively in anxious ADHD patients.
In cases where ADHD is the underlying cause of anxiety, treating ADHD alone can treat both conditions. Anxiety, however, often results as a side effect of stimulant medication and may need to be managed separately.
In cases where the two develop independently, ADHD and anxiety medication combination may be a better option. A doctor could also treat one at a time.
Depending on the individual symptoms, adult ADHD and anxiety medication may include antidepressants and blood pressure medications.
Patients with ADHD and anxiety can benefit from behavioral, educational, and psychological coaching.
Therapy is a planned approach to treating specific ADHD and anxiety symptoms that vary from patient to patient. For example, behavior therapy can assist ADHD patients in coexisting positively with others.
A professional can identify and recommend the best treatment for poor attention and impulsivity Cognitive Behavior Therapy, a psycho-social treatment model that aims to reduce anxiety symptoms, is frequently used to treat comorbid anxiety.
Lifestyle changes can help with ADHD and anxiety in the following ways:
- Sleeping and waking up at the same time each day ensures adequate sleep, which improves mood.
- Meditation and focus practice can help organize thoughts and reduce panic.
- Routine exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like dopamine that improve mood.
- Scheduling tasks with reasonable deadlines for completion can facilitate the completion of duties with minimal stress.
- Eating well and getting enough water are supportive ways to deal with anxiety.
- Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol is also recommended for improved sleep and anxiety reduction.
Other Comorbidities With ADHD
Comorbid conditions can arise as a result of coping with ADHD symptoms or as a result of other environmental factors. For example, repeated disapproval or criticism of people with ADHD may lead to depression.
Some of the most common ADHD comorbidities are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Oppositional defiant disorder.
- Tic disorders.
- Language disabilities.
- Learning disabilities.
- Fine and gross motor difficulties.
- Executive function difficulties.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder frequently diagnosed in childhood and persists into adulthood. It causes poor attention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
However, many of the same ADHD symptoms can also surface with anxiety. These include distractibility, restlessness, insomnia, fidgeting, and difficulty socializing.
Because of their similar symptoms, ADHD and social anxiety can exacerbate each other. Although therapy and lifestyle changes can help with specific symptoms, medication is the only sure cure for ADHD.
A standard treatment can be costly, limiting your options if you are on a tight budget. However, whether dealing with ADHD and anxiety in women, men, or children, or closely related conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, you can easily access online resources to determine the best holistic plan for your needs.
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