Distinguishing ADHD & Anxiety
Reports say nearly 50% of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. And while the two are distinct conditions, they can still affect each other and cause negative effects when not managed properly. In this article, we’ll talk about ADHD and anxiety, the symptoms they present, and what can be done to manage them.
Table of Contents
ADHD & Anxiety: The Most Common Comorbidity?
1. What is Anxiety?
2. ADHD - A Quick Run-through
3. Anxiety and ADHD by the Numbers
4. Overlapping Anxiety Symptoms and ADHD Traits
5. How Does ADHD Relate to Anxiety?
6. ADHD and Anxiety are Still Different Conditions
ADHD & Anxiety FAQs
Distinguishing ADHD & Anxiety
Two of the most common comorbidities that a person can have at the same time are ADHD & Anxiety. Mental health professionals can have a hard time telling them apart because of the similarity in symptoms. Moreover, there is the possibility of anxiety stemming from the symptoms of ADHD.
What’s with these two coexisting disorders, and how do they affect each other? Does it mean that if you have ADHD, you'll most likely have anxiety, too? Let's review how these two can coexist inside a person.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes, like increased blood pressure. It’s normal to be anxious from time to time, but if you find yourself having anxiety frequently for no reason, you might have an anxiety disorder.
A person with an anxiety disorder has consistent feelings of worry or dread without cause. Muscle tension, panic attacks, and insomnia are also common physical manifestations of an anxiety disorder. This worry or fear is also challenging to control and can cause problems in a person's life.
Some of the most well-known symptoms of anxiety disorders may include:
- Chronic feeling of nervousness
- Struggle to cope with relaxation techniques
- Experiencing fear without knowing the actual cause
- Frequent questioning of one's thoughts and decisions
- Endless feeling of worrying and restlessness
Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, maybe due to a person’s previous experiences. It can be from abuse, neglect, or trauma that the person has endured in childhood or even in adulthood. Other factors, such as the genetic makeup, medications' side effects, or chronic stress can also contribute to anxiety disorders.
ADHD - A Quick Run-through
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be related to the brain's production of dopamine, a type of chemical messenger. However, this neurodivergent disorder can most likely be acquired through heredity and genetics. Brain injury and being exposed to some environmental factors during pregnancy might also contribute to the development of ADHD.
As for its symptoms, numerous traits can be attributed to it. Here are some of the symptoms that an adult ADHD brain can experience:
- Difficulty in organization
- Being forgetful and misplacing things
- Sensory Overload
- Zoning out of conversations
Note, though, that this list isn't exhaustive. Also, not everybody can experience all of these symptoms. ADHD can manifest to people differently and its symptoms may have overlapping characteristics with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety and ADHD by the Numbers
There's a close link between ADHD and Anxiety. They are closely related, and sometimes their symptoms and diagnosis are mistaken for each other. Many people with ADHD are more likely to have an anxiety disorder as well. According to reports, approximately 50% of adults with ADHD have an anxiety disorder.
According to the Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach, the most common psychiatric comorbidities co-occurring with ADHD are anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and substance abuse disorder.
Researchers asked a considerable sample size of 3,199 people with ADHD, and surprisingly, 47.1% of the respondents stated that they are struggling with any anxiety disorder. In contrast, almost 38.3% have been affected by mood disorders.
Though we cannot precisely tell if they have ADHD, anxiety, and depression association, these numbers tell us that there's a close link between them. Almost half the population of people with ADHD can experience anxiety, which can significantly affect their mental health conditions.
Overlapping Anxiety Symptoms and ADHD Traits
To further understand the effects of both ADHD and anxiety on the human brain, we can now discuss their similarities and how they can affect each other. Knowing that these traits can be attributed to both Anxiety and ADHD can make you more knowledgeable in managing their comorbid relationship.
- Restlessness and Inability to Relax - For ADHD, this may stem from our brain's hyperactivity and our "on-the-go attitude." Comorbid anxiety may worsen this because of the racing thoughts and chronic worrying.
- Poor Organizational Skills - This is common for many people with ADHD. Having an anxiety disorder can make this condition worse because of the overwhelming feeling of having to do everything at once or the fear of not being able to complete a task.
- Sensory Overload - Our brain's reaction and management of external stimuli can be attributed to ADHD. However, it can also stem from the person's worries and habit of overthinking, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed or a state of being anxious.
- Struggle to Sleep - Anxious feelings may contribute to our brain's inability to sleep and take rest easily. Overthinking things that may happen in the future can also delay sleeping. For ADHD, the brain's ability to be hyperactive thoughts may contribute to sleep troubles.
- Social Awkwardness - Adults with ADHD and anxiety disorders may find it challenging to be present in social settings. From an ADHD brain standpoint, they might feel it’s too exhausting to mask their ADHD traits to avoid being judged by other people. This can also cause social anxiety because of the traumatic experience that might have occurred in the past.
These are some of the ADHD symptoms that tend to likewise be present in people with anxiety disorders. As we can see, they are pretty similar, and it can be challenging to manage both if we don't understand how they affect each other.
How Does ADHD Relate to Anxiety?
When having an ADHD diagnosis, medical professionals often have to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. This is why people need to seek help for their anxiety when they notice that it already interferes with their daily living.
You see, there are instances where ADHD symptoms result from an underlying anxiety disorder. Consequently, some signs of anxiety can come from ADHD symptoms. And, of course, don’t forget that they can occur together.
So, to have a more accurate diagnosis and management, it's essential to talk about it thoroughly with a mental health professional.
ADHD and anxiety share a special connection. Anxiety can be caused by years of negative feedback due to ADHD struggles. It can become hard to deal with it when you receive negative feedback too often. This can lead to a fear of failure and a lack of self-confidence. Some people with ADHD are more likely to develop anxiety because they experience a lot of disappointments in life due to their ADHD symptoms that lead them to unsuccessful situations.
ADHD and Anxiety are Still Different Conditions
Though they may live inside your brain simultaneously, it's essential to know that ADHD and anxiety disorders are still different conditions with distinct symptoms, treatments, and medications.
While ADHD is often characterized by inattention, high activity levels, and impulse control problems, anxiety is primarily characterized by intense fear, dread, or worry.
When these two conditions co-exist inside your brain, both of them should be treated evenly and understood thoroughly to minimize their negative impact on a person's life.
Whatever it is that you may experience, it is vital to seek professional help. The right medication and proper treatment for managing your symptoms will surely make you feel better.
To better help with your symptoms, you can also find a community that understands you, have a friend to talk things over or consider therapy. Whatever you choose, make sure to find peace within yourself when it comes to your struggles with anxiety and ADHD.
Comorbidities can further aggravate a person's struggle with ADHD. One of the most prevalent cases that can coexist with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is Anxiety Disorder.
It's important to know that while they can co-exist inside a person's brain, ADHD and anxiety are different conditions. If you're struggling with symptoms of either condition, it is best to seek professional help to find the proper treatment that can minimize your struggles. You can have an adequate understanding of both by having a proper diagnosis, more research, and understanding how these neurodivergent conditions simultaneously affect you.
Struggles brought by anxiety disorders and ADHD can result in further issues, such as trouble falling asleep or having difficulty concentrating. If these difficulties are already affecting your daily life, it is best to have a healthy conversation with someone you trust, such as your family members or friends.
By knowing everything about ADHD and anxiety, you and your mental health professional can formulate treatment plans and lessen your struggle with these coexisting conditions. Taking medications, doing self-regulation activities, and therapy can be done to address your problems and reduce anxiety. Remember to ask for help when things get rough and if you are constantly subjected to stressful situations.
ADHD and Anxiety: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. Can ADHD worsen anxiety symptoms and vice versa?
This is possible, especially if a person with ADHD is not receiving proper treatment or support for their condition. Struggles with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can lead to anxiety-inducing situations that may worsen a person's anxiety symptoms. It is crucial to seek professional help to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for your specific case.
2. Is it also possible for an ADHD brain to have other comorbidities aside from anxiety?
Other comorbidities can co-exist even if you already have ADHD and anxiety. The most common comorbidities include depression, personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse disorder. It is essential to have a proper diagnosis to receive the right treatment for your specific needs.
3. What are some effective treatments for ADHD and anxiety?
There are various treatment options available depending on the severity of your symptoms. Some of the most common approaches include taking medication, behavior therapy or counseling, lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, and alternative treatments like mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, or neurofeedback. It is important to work closely with your mental health experts regarding the right approach and medication.