In this brief guide, we will discuss the connection between ADHD and Anxiety in Children and in Adults, as well as their symptoms and treatments.
Sometimes people confuse autism with ADHD.
You should pay attention to an important detail: autism is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), while ADHD isn’t a spectrum disorder.
The link between ADHD and anxiety
It’s estimated that over 60 percent of people with ADHD have a comorbid, or coexisting condition.
Anxiety is one condition that is often seen in people with ADHD.
About 50 percent of adults and up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety are separate conditions, but they often come as a package deal.
About half of adults with ADHD have an anxiety disorder.
The right treatment can improve ADHD symptoms and ease anxious feelings.
What to Expect From the connection between ADHD and anxiety?
Having these two conditions connected only leads to a worse diagnosis for the patient.
When you have anxiety along with ADHD, it may make some of your ADHD symptoms worse, such as feeling restless or having trouble concentrating.
ADHD is an ongoing condition that often starts in childhood and can continue into adulthood.
It can affect your ability to concentrate and may result in behavioural problems, such as:
- Aggression (not a must but possible),
- Lack of attention,
- Lack of impulse control,
- Fidgeting and trouble sitting still,
- Difficulty organizing and completing tasks.
Anxiety also comes with its own set of symptoms like stress, trouble sleeping, fatigue, constant worry, etc.
Can chronic stress lead to Anxiety?
Chronic stress can lead to anxiety.
Kids with ADHD often have more trouble managing stress than kids who don’t have ADHD, too. So, having ADHD can lead to anxiety.
But kids with ADHD are also up to three times more likely to have an anxiety disorder than other kids.
These common external factors connected to stress and causing anxiety are:
- Stress at work,
- Stress from school,
- Financial stress,
- Stress in a personal relationship,
- Stress from emotional trauma,
- Stress from a serious medical illness.
ADHD and anxiety in Children
Up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
Many children diagnosed with ADHD struggle with working memory, time-management skills, and organizational skills.
It can cause difficulties in following daily routines and/or completing short- and long-term tasks.
It can also result in chronic stress and difficulties in emotional regulation.
Klass, professor of paediatrics and journalism at New York University, points out that anxiety rates are higher among children who already feel different and who struggle with tasks that their classmates seemingly find easy.
He says “Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in children,” says “It’s true that everybody feels anxious sometimes. Maybe performing makes you anxious. Or social situations make you anxious. As a result, people don’t understand how big a problem anxiety disorder actually is — how much it is getting in the way and preventing these children from doing what they need to do.”
Some behavioural signs that may be a sign of ADHD and Anxiety in a child
- Consistently disorganized
- Problems organizing activities
- Appears not to listen, even when directly addressed
- Cannot focus or pay attention to tasks or instruction
- Frequently loses personal items (arrives at class unprepared, loses toys and tools)
- Makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, professional work, and other activities
- Begins tasks or assignments, but frequently does not follow through and leaves them uncompleted
- Avoids taking on tasks that require sustained mental effort for long periods.
- Seems constantly moving and driven, as if by a motor
- Cannot sit still when seated and frequently squirms, fidgets, or moves around
- Talks excessively at home, in class, at work, and other places
- Children may move about a room, climb, or run where inappropriate to do so—teens and adults feel restless
- Has difficulty remaining seated in situations where sitting still is expected
- Difficulty playing quietly (children) or quietly engaging in leisure activities (teens and adults)
- Interrupts others’ conversations or games
- Blurts out answers to questions before the speaker has completed the question
- Impatient and has trouble waiting for his or her turn.
Some ways to help your kid:
- Tune in to your child’s behaviour
Acting up more than usual or disappearing into video games aren’t surely signals of ADHD, they can be signs of anxiety.
Just ask your child if something is causing worry.
- If your child talks about anxiety, validate those feelings
Rather than telling your child to “calm down,” work with the child to figure out the future steps.
- Be mindful of your own anxiety
Some parents of anxious kids struggle with anxiety themselves.
Remember that your child is learning how to respond to stressful situations by watching how you react to them.
Kids often deal with anxiety easier if their parents respond to stressful situations.
- Try not to take things personally
It can be upsetting when your child comes home from school and says something rude.
But when kids do this, they’re often letting off steam after a stressful day.
When things have calmed down, offer a quiet time before asking about school.
- Help your child see the big picture
If your child blows up when doing homework, wait for things to calm down.
Then encourage your child to reflect on what caused those feelings.
Talk about an alternative way you both might be able to do next time to relieve some of that anxiety.
- Consider going to a professional
If your child’s anxiety gets in the way of functioning or enjoying life, talk to your health-care provider.
They can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you and your child find the best path forward.
ADHD and Anxiety in Adults
According to some studies about 50% of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
The general characteristics of these disorders are excessive worry, anxiety, nervousness, and fear.
This is often accompanied by feelings of restlessness, being constantly on edge, problems with concentration or mind going blank, fatigue, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, irritability, and feeling overwhelmed.
Treatments for ADHD and Anxiety:
The same treatments used for kids with ADHD can be used as well as for adults.
For most people, it’s a combination of medicine and talk therapy.
Sometimes the meds you took as a child may work differently because your brain, body, and symptoms may have changed.
As an adult, you also might need different skills to stay organized and manage your time.
And you may need treatment for other issues like depression or anxiety.
Here are some common treatments:
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Recommended books and sources:
- ADD and Anxiety in Adults
- Ben’s Story: The Symptoms of Depression, Adhd, and Anxiety That Caused His Suicide
- CBT Toolbox for Children and Adolescents: Over 200 Worksheets & Exercises for Trauma, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression & Conduct Disorders
- How to survive Child Anxiety and ADHD
- HFNE “Bible verses for anxiety”
- The Ultimate Fidget Toys for ADHD Kids & Adults |Increase Focus, Reduce Anxiety & Relief Stress, Tension, and Nerves |E-Book |Speech Therapy Toys & Marble Sensory for ADD OCD & Autism
FAQs about ADHD and Anxiety
Can ADHD cause Anxiety?
Happens that medications used to treat ADHD, especially medications such as amphetamines, can cause anxiety symptoms
Does ADHD make Anxiety worse?
ADHD and Anxiety both come with their packs of symptoms, so they can make one another worse.
What is the best medicine for ADHD and Anxiety?
Stimulants or atomoxetine are suggested as first-line medications for children with ADHD and Anxiety.
Can Adderall help with anxiety?
Using Adderall for anxiety can have a range of effects, including increased stress.
Is ADHD considered a mental illness?
ADHD is a mental disorder that belongs to the type of neurodevelopmental disorders.
This brief guide informed us that ADHD and Anxiety often come as a package deal (when the person has ADHD), which worsens the health condition.
The combination of these two disorders are common among adults and kids who have ADHD.
Effective treatments for ADHD and Anxiety are:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy,
- Meditation and relaxation techniques,
- Prescription medications.
- Are you anxious? Or just creative?
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy
- HFNE “How to overcome anxiety?”
- What is autism?
- What is meditation?
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