Is there a connection between ADHD and anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. The American Psychiatric Association says anxiety disorders affect approximately 30% of adults at some point in life.
While ADHD affects fewer individuals, ADHD diagnoses have increased in recent years. This could be due to wider availability of assessments or simply because more people recognize ADHD symptoms.
Interestingly, research shows both conditions often occur together. It begs the question…
ADHD AND ANXIETY… IS THERE A CONNECTION?
Well, the topic is complex. While they are separate and distinct conditions, we found a few connections between the two:
- They may often occur together
- They may share similar symptoms
- One may exacerbate the other
THEY MAY OFTEN OCCUR TOGETHER
Research shows they often occur simultaneously. According to National Resource Centre on ADHD, up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also experience anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that approximately 50 percent of American adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
To be clear, ADHD is not an anxiety disorder. The American Psychiatric Association classifies ADHD as a neurodevelopment disorder that has a strong genetic component and typically presents in early childhood.
In simple terms, anxiety can be described as excessive worry or panic out of proportion to a situation.
THEY MAY SHARE SIMILAR SYMPTOMS
Despite often occurring together, each has its own distinct symptoms. But ADHD and anxiety can share some of the same symptoms, including:
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating or paying attention
- Inability to relax, feeling restless, fidgeting
- Trouble sleeping, insomnia
- Difficulty socializing
- Intrusive thoughts
- Easily fatigued
And the list goes on.
ONE MAY EXACERBATE THE OTHER
Research indicates ADHD sufferers often develop anxiety due to their ADHD. A common symptom of ADHD includes forgetfulness. No one wants to miss an important deadline like a final school project, work proposal, or mortgage payment. The constant fear of forgetting can lead to extreme stress and worry. Repeated exposure to stress and worry can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety symptoms can be more intense for ADHD sufferers. Therefore, anxiety can make it even more difficult to keep ADHD symptoms in check. Faced with intense feelings of anxiety, it suddenly becomes even more difficult to use coping skills that usually work. When they don’t, anxiety worsens as a result. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
Finally, some ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse may have side-effects that mimic anxiety symptoms or worsen pre-existing anxiety. Common side effects include restlessness, sleep difficulties, irritability and increase heartbeat.
MANAGING SYMPTOMS OF ADHD AND ANXIETY
With so many moving parts, how can one manage their symptoms?
This is one of the most common solutions. Is it anxiety or ADHD? Is anxiety making it more difficult to focus or concentrate? Does a lack of focus or forgetfulness cause anxiety? A therapist specializing in ADHD and anxiety can help parse things out. They can share specific coping skills to help you navigate and reduce your symptoms.
Medication is often a last resort for our therapists. We prefer to teach healthy, life-long coping strategies to reduce or manage symptoms. Your therapist can help you determine whether prescription medication may be appropriate to aid in your progress, and refer you to a trusted psychiatrist.
There are also Lifestyle Changes that may reduce symptoms:
Get Enough Sleep
Fatigue can amplify symptoms whereas a good night’s sleep can improve attention, focus and mood. Get adequate rest and maintain a sleep routine as much as possible.
Regular exercise, especially outdoors, releases feel-good chemicals in the brain and lowers cortisol. Even a simple walk around the block can naturally improve mood, reduce anxiety symptoms and may improve concentration, memory, and motivation.
Engage in an activity you find relaxing such a meditation, deep-breathing, journaling, coloring, or even gardening or cooking. Anything that relaxes the mind and body has the power to reduce physical symptoms.
As you can see, the lines are fairly blurred between ADHD and anxiety. Each present their own challenges. But when they occur together, circumstances become even more complex.
CONTACT CREATIVE COUNSELING CENTER
Are you struggling with anxiety and/or ADHD symptoms? Are you concerned about recent changes in your child’s behavior? Complete the brief form below to Request a Free Phone Consultation. One of our team members will reach out to learn more about your specific circumstance and discuss whether our practice and which therapist may be a good fit for your needs. You need not suffer with symptoms any longer than necessary. We would like to help you and your family live a life you love. We look forward to connecting with you soon.