What Is the Link Between Anxiety and ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorders frequently occur together. These conditions can simply exist simultaneously, or ADHD may contribute to the development of the anxiety disorder.

Individuals with ADHD often have other mental health conditions. In fact, around half of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes, symptoms can be difficult to tell apart from one another as they share certain symptoms. For instance, in both anxiety disorders and ADHD, the individual may have difficulty concentrating or relaxing.

Learning about the differences between the two disorders is important in the management and treatment of both. Anxiety can significantly impact how someone with ADHD manages their condition.

The connection between ADHD and anxiety

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually begins during childhood, and can continue to adulthood in some people. This developmental disorder is typically associated with symptoms such as:

  • a short attention span
  • fidgeting
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsivity
  • restlessness

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 50 percent of American adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. The National Resource Centre on ADHD estimate that up to 30 percent of children with the condition experience anxiety.

Currently, it is unclear why anxiety and ADHD appear together so frequently. Factors such as genetics, premature birth, and environmental toxins are thought to play a part in ADHD, so it is possible that they also influence anxiety disorders; more research is needed.

What is an anxiety disorder?

A person with an anxiety disorder is likely to experience long-lasting feelings of nervousness, fear, and worry. Although occasional anxiety is normal, those with anxiety disorders experience anxiety most, or all, of the time.

They may have difficulty identifying and controlling their specific fears and worries. These feelings tend to be out of proportion to the situation, and can interfere with people’s daily lives and relationships with others.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
The connection

Although anxiety and ADHD may occur together, ADHD is not an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes, anxiety can occur independently of ADHD. Other times, it can be as a result of living with ADHD.

How to tell the difference

Although there are many things in common, there are some differences between the two conditions. Anxiety is primarily a disorder of nervousness, worry, and fear, while ADHD is characterized by a lack of attention and focus. People with anxiety can also display compulsive or perfectionist behaviors, which aren’t typically seen in those with ADHD.

Someone with an anxiety disorder will find it difficult to concentrate during certain situations that cause them to feel anxious. However, someone with ADHD will find it difficult to concentrate most or all of the time.

Although friends and family may recognize the symptoms of anxiety, ADHD, or both, a health professional should carry out a full evaluation before a diagnosis is made.
Excerpted from “What is the Link Between Anxiety and ADHD?” in Medical News Today. Read the full article online for  details on treating ADHD and anxiety with medication, therapy, and relaxation techniques, tips for caregivers, and more.

Source: Medical News Today | What is the Link Between Anxiety and ADHD?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315303 | © 2004-2022 Healthline Media UK Ltd

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