But If The Symptoms Are The Same Does It Matter How Its Treated
Yes. Yes. Yes. It matters. The symptoms arent the problem. The condition driving the symptoms is the problem. Understanding whether its ADHD, anxiety, or both is the first and most important step in making sure your little person is getting what he or she needs to move forward. Although both anxiety and ADHD are manageable, they need different types of support to improve.
ADHD is generally treated with medication that boosts the necessary neurochemicals and stimulates the parts of the brain that need to work a little harder. This may be effective for ADHD, but if the symptoms are being driven by anxiety, the use of ADHD medication is massively heavy-handed and fails miserably to give the child the skills or resources needed to best manage the symptoms. Even if anxiety and ADHD are happening together, its important to also treat the anxiety as a separate condition. A growing body of highly regarded research is showing that mindfulness and exercise are both powerful ways to do this.
Adhd Is Often Missed When It Co
Studies find that 80 percent of people with attention deficit disorder will have at least one other psychiatric disorder in their lifetime. The two most common are depression and an anxiety disorder, like obsessive-compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder .
ADHD without a comorbid disorder is the exception rather than the rule. Having ADHD is challenging enough, but the other disorders that accompany ADHD profoundly affect a persons daily life. A patient of mine, Antonio, knows this well. Although his ADHD was diagnosed when he was in fifth grade, his anxiety disorder was not caught until his last year of college.
Everyone assumed that my anxiety behaviors were just the hyperactivity part of my ADHD, he says. Years of his life were spent suffering from paralyzing anxiety that resulted in his missing classes, being housebound for days, and not being able to work.
When ADHD and another disorder co-occur, there will likely be one of the following scenarios:
1.The ADHD has been diagnosed, but the comorbid disorder has not been. Doctors sometimes mistakenly chalk up depressive and anxiety symptoms to the ADHD diagnosis, as in Antonios case. The comorbid disorder can be independent of the ADHD or a direct result of ADHD symptoms .
Telling The Difference Between Anxiety And Adhd 4 Tips
Anxiety and ADHD are two common issues that many people struggle with.
Both make it difficult to navigate our modern world.
For example, with ADHD, it can be hard to sit still in class or stay in front of your desk at work. Or, when you suffer from anxiety, there are many triggers that you must face daily.
Sometimes its even possible to have both conditions at the same time.
Knowing the difference between ADHD and anxiety is important, especially if you or someone you know is experiencing behaviors you cant explain. Otherwise, you could be getting treatment for the wrong condition.
Then consider these four tips for telling the difference between anxiety and ADHD.
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Anxiety And Adhd Can Cause Concentration Difficulties
Did worry make it hard to focus, or was it something else, like Zoom fatigue or undiagnosed ADHD? Health insurers began to report increases in ADHD-related visits. The support organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder reported a 67 percent increase in traffic to their website.
Anxiety disorders and ADHD have much in common as these conditions cause difficulties concentrating and restlessness, and sleep problems. Feelings of boredom and isolation related to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders can mimic adjustment, sleep, and depressive disorders.
Adhd Or Anxiety Understanding The Connection
Many children diagnosed with ADHD struggle with working memory, time-management skills, and organizational skills. This can make it difficult to follow daily routines and complete both short and long-term tasks. It can also result in chronic stress.
Emotional regulation is another challenge for children with ADHD. ADHD has a tendency to flood kids with emotionspositive or negativewhich can be difficult to manage in the moment. If a child is flooded with feelings of anxiety and starts to ruminate with worry, for example, that child might struggle to make sense of his thoughts and become caught in a cycle of negative and anxious thinking.
Being disruptive or clowning around in school
Hair twirling, skin picking, or other anxious behaviors
Misdiagnosis can and does occur when it comes to children with ADHD and/or anxiety. The best course of action to ensure an accurate diagnosis is a thorough evaluation by a neuropsychologist.
Anxiety looks a lot like ADHD for many children, so its important to have your child evaluated by someone who is familiar with the nuances of ADHD in order to determine the best course of treatment. Be aware that teachers may be more familiar with symptoms of ADHD than they are with anxiety so it’s not uncommon for confusion to arise at school.
The following are just a few of the many ways in which symptoms of ADHD and anxiety overlap:
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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 arent 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.
Does My Adhd Make My Anxiety Worse
Knowing that theres a strong link between ADHD and anxiety, you may be asking, Does my ADHD make my anxiety worse, or does my anxiety make my ADHD worse?
In a word: Possibly. Difficulty concentrating, fidgeting, feeling overwhelmed all common features of ADHD may feel intensified when youre also experiencing anxiety.
Its also common for one condition to exacerbate the other.
ADHD can make matters, such as critical decisions and difficult conversations, even harder, says Charna Cassell, licensed family and marriage therapist, trauma therapist, and the founder of the Center for Passionate Living in California. When something feels challenging or overwhelming, it may lead to increased anxiety.
Cassell also points out that perfectionism is one characteristic of anxiety thats often overlooked. So if ones ADHD is preventing them from meeting their standards, she says, they may experience even more anxiety.
For people with ADHD and anxiety, Robinson notes that the possibility of symptoms of anxiety being more severe is highly likely. He says, ADHD is also a condition of emotional regulation, as the executive, functioning part of the brain is responsible for emotional regulation.
This might make the symptoms of anxiety more intense and harder to shake off.
The symptoms of ADHD and anxiety can often overlap. Some of the symptoms they share include:
- difficulty concentrating
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Symptoms Of Anxiety In Adults And Children With Adhd
Anxiety symptoms in children, teens, and adults with ADHD include:
- Restlessness or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks, homework, chores
- Fidgeting and squirming in your seat when seated for long periods of time at school or work.
Adults with ADHD may also suffer from chronic stress, worry, or:
- A sense of dread about the day ahead, including anticipating failure or embarrassment
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning difficulty falling asleep at night
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ADHD children may also struggle with physical symptoms, such as:
- Frequent stomach aches and headaches
- Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights, which can be associated with sensory processing issues.
- Outbursts of anger or frustration
ADHD kids are often not aware of the impact their behavior has on others, which leads to misunderstandings about the support they need from family members and peers.
Keep A Trigger Tracker
Understanding what particular stressors cause the most anxiety for your child helps your child learn to predict anxiety-inducing situations and manage symptoms as they arise. If test anxiety triggers distorted thinking, for example, your child can meet with the classroom teacher to determine test-taking strategies that might help in the moment.
Your child can keep a worry thermometer in his backpack or desk to jot times when he felt hot with anxiety during the school day. He can color in the thermometer to the appropriate level and write down the time of day. This will help the classroom teacher understand his anxiety hot s pots. Kids can also use the worry thermometer at home, or use a worry journal to keep a list of anxious and intrusive thoughts.
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When To Seek Professional Help
Itâs important to talk to your childâs doctor if you believe they may have ADHD, anxiety, or both. If left untreated, either condition can get worse, making it harder for your child at school, home, and in social situations. Their doctor can help decide if medication would help. They can also advise on other strategies, tools, treatments, and resources that may be useful.
Even if medication is not used, you can learn more about the condition, ways to help your child cope, and support they can get at school.
Having one or both conditions may change how your child acts and feels and the challenges they face. It can also impact the suggested treatment.
For example, children with anxiety may be encouraged to seek cognitive behavior therapy or anti-anxiety medication. A child with ADHD may require stimulant or nonstimulant medications to help with brain functioning along with behavioral strategies.
If your child has one or both conditions, their doctor should personalize the treatment based on the symptoms and struggles that are most affecting their life.
Similarities Of Adhd And Anxiety
Hereâs how ADHD and anxiety look similar:
- Avoidance: not taking opportunities due to fear
- Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: intense fear of rejection and/or extreme reaction/upset in response to what you interpret as rejection
- Guilt: Feeling guilt or shame over everyday, innocuous interactions, a.k.a. âlittle thingsâ
- Fear and worry about social events, work, relationships, etc.
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How To Know When Its Time To Seek Help
Wondering if its time to seek help? This is a question you may be asking yourself if your symptoms have become severe enough that theyre interfering in your daily functioning or life. If you want to learn how to deal with anxiety or ADHD, consider speaking with a mental health professional about treatment options.
The good news is theres treatment available for both ADHD and anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy. Treatment for ADHD and anxiety are readily available and often extremely effective.
They can be treated separately, but if youre experiencing and have been diagnosed with both conditions, simultaneous treatment can be a bit more challenging. This is in large part due to the fact that some ADHD medications can actually add to anxiety.
If both conditions are present, a licensed therapist may choose to focus on and treat the one having the most impact on your life first. Some common and effective treatment options for ADHD or anxiety might include:
- ADHD or anti-anxiety medication
Reviewed On: October 7, 2021
Parents’ And Teachers’ Reports
Differences in informant reports of clinically elevated ADHD and anxiety symptoms were also of interest. Parents reported more severe ADHD symptoms, while teachers reported more severe anxiety symptoms. This can be explained as almost one third of the study participants received medication for ADHD, which decreased symptom severity in the structured school setting. In contrast, the school environment provides more stressful social situations, which may lead to more noticeable anxiety symptoms. Therefore, we chose to use only the parental reports for the assessment of comorbidities .
Llanes et al. compared parents’ and teachers’ reports on ADHD and anxiety symptoms in preschool and school-aged children, and found a low concordance between these informers, with teachers reporting fewer problems overall.
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What Happens If You Leave Adhd Untreated
Children with untreated ADHD may face problems at home and at school. Because ADHD can make it hard for children to pay attention in class, a student with untreated ADHD may not learn everything they’re taught. They may fall behind or get poor grades. Children with ADHD may struggle to control their emotions.
Adhd And Anxiety Disorders
In addition to the anxiety symptoms associated with ADHD described above, research does find a strong association between ADHD and anxiety disorders. Roughly 40% to 60% of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can manifest themselves in a variety of physical, mood, cognitive and behavioral symptom patterns. Common features of these disorders are excessive anxiety, worry, nervousness, and fear. This is often accompanied by feelings of restlessness, being “keyed up” or constantly on edge, problems with concentration , sleep disturbances, muscle tension, irritability, fatigue, and feeling overwhelmed.
It can be very difficult to relax and participate fully in life with these impairing symptoms. The person quickly begins to avoid situations in which a negative outcome could occur. If that person is able to face these situations, he or she may only be able to do so by spending excessive time and effort preparing. The anxiety can result in procrastination in behavior or decision-making and the need to repeatedly seek reassurances due to worries.
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What Are The Differences Between Adhd And Anxiety
Despite some overlap in symptoms, there are some differences between anxiety disorder vs. ADHD. The major difference comes down to one underlying difference.
- Do you have difficulty focusing because you have apprehensive and fearful thoughts? Anxiety disorders result in the potential to be easily distracted because your mind is full of worrisome, anxious thoughts.
- Or, do you have difficulty focusing because youre easily distracted ?ADHD can result in the potential to be easily distracted, even when youre calm. Of course, keep in mind that anxiety can result from an inability to focus, because that can lead to further stress about knowing that youre falling behind on a task, assignment, or job. Anxiety that is separate from ADHD is often either more generalized, where you may feel fearful/nervous on a regular basis, or more specific, where you feel fearful/nervous in certain situations , Ertel said.
There are a few questions that can help determine if what youre experiencing is ADD/ADHD or anxiety:
- Are you an excessive worrier?
- Do certain things make you really fearful just by thinking about them?
- Are you anxious about having to go somewhere or do something?
- Are you overly shy?
- Is there any family history of anxiety?
- Do you become irritated if you have to leave home?
Typically, a professional medical evaluation is the only way to truly know if youre experiencing ADHD or anxiety.
ADHD is a mental health condition characterized by three main things:
Therapy Can Help You Navigate Adhd And Anxiety In Adults
Still not sure whether you have ADHD or anxiety? Consider therapy â I can help you work through your symptoms and come up with coping strategies to manage how easily you can feel overwhelmed if you have ADHD or anxiety.During our work together, youâll learn how to manage your anxiety and ADHD. Weâll come up with coping skills to deal with your symptoms and help you step confidently into the world knowing what youâre dealing with and how you can manage it.Iâm ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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The Relationship Between Adhd And Anxiety
The connection between ADHD and anxiety is significant. According to two national surveys, nearly 40% of adults and about 30% of children have at least one other co-occurring condition in addition to ADHD .Half of all adults with ADHD also had an anxiety disorder of some type, including generalized anxiety disorder . Anxiety often mimics ADHD, and vice versa. It can be difficult to tell these two conditions apart because they share several specific symptoms.
For example, in anxiety disorders as well as ADHD, people often have difficulties with focusing and self-regulation. Feelings of anxiety can also make ADHD symptoms worse.
Its also not uncommon to see symptoms of one improve while treating the other. But learning about the difference between the two disorders is important for the management and treatment of both.
Treatment For Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Starting treatment early is important. Treatment is most effective if it fits the needs of the child and family. The first step to treatment is to have a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. Some of the signs of behavior problems, such as not following rules, are also signs of ADHD, so it is important to get a careful evaluation to see if a child has both conditions. For younger children, the treatment with the strongest evidence is behavioral parent training, where a therapist helps the parent learn effective ways to strengthen the parent-child relationship and respond to the childs behavior. For school-age children and teens, an often-used effective treatment is combination training and therapy that includes the child, the family, and the school. Sometimes medication is part of the treatment.
Many children with ADHD also have a learning disorder . This is in addition to other symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulties paying attention, staying on task, or being organized, which can also keep a child from doing well in school.
Having a learning disorder means that a child has a clear difficulty in one or more areas of learning, even when their intelligence is not affected. Learning disorders include
- Dyslexia difficulty with reading
- Dyscalculia difficulty with math
- Dysgraphia difficulty with writing