ADHD and Anxiety
Your virtual meeting is starting in ten minutes and your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest. You barely slept––worrying you’d be late (again) or forget to do something important. And just as you get ready to log on, you can’t find your computer charger…
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t happen so often. You wonder if (or know) you have ADHD, but why are you so anxious? Can ADHD cause anxiety?
Yes, it can. In fact, if you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), there is a good chance you have anxiety. 50 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD also qualify for an anxiety disorder. And a lot of the time, they only get treatment for one and not the other. Why? ADHD symptoms and anxiety symptoms can look pretty similar.
For the adult with ADHD, it’s pretty common to feel misunderstood. This can easily lead to feelings of anxiety-like being worried you’ll make mistakes or show up late.
So how can you tell if ADHD is causing anxiety? The first step is breaking down the symptoms.
What are some ADHD Symptoms?
ADHD symptoms often include challenges with time management, feeling overwhelmed, regulating emotions, self-control, planning, organization, and getting started. These break down even further. There are two “clusters” of symptoms. Inattention, which involves trouble staying on topic or task. And, hyperactivity/impulsivity (high levels of restlessness and energy).
ADHD Inattention Symptoms
- Often fails to pay attention to detail, making careless mistakes
- Has trouble holding attention on tasks or activities
- Seems to not listen when spoken to directly
- Struggles to follow through on instructions or finish duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, sidetracked)
- Has trouble organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that need mental effort over a long period (such as work tasks)
- Frequently loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. pens, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, cell phone)
- Easily distracted
- Forgetful in daily activities
ADHD Hyperactivity and Impulsivity Symptoms
- Fidgets or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
- Feels restless
- Unable to take part in leisure activities quietly
- Acts “on the go” or as if “driven by a motor”
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out an answer before a question has been completed
- Has trouble waiting their turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations)
What Are Anxiety Symptoms?
Sure, everyone has some anxiety. Feelings of worry and stress are the brain’s warning system, and we need it to survive. However, for someone to qualify for an anxiety disorder, the anxiety needs to be impacting your life––like your job, your marriage, your sleep, etc. While there are lots of different types of anxiety symptoms and disorders (social anxiety, panic attacks, adjustment disorder with anxiety, etc.), the most common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Symptoms
GAD shows up in your life as worries that are difficult to control over multiple parts of your life (for the past six months or more). These constant worries can cause:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Muscle tension
So How Are ADHD and Anxiety Linked?
ADHD can make you feel like your “brain is failing.” And that can make you feel, well, pretty anxious. You start to think, When will the next mistake happen? Is my boss (or spouse) going to be frustrated with me…again? Why can’t I just get something done? For the adult with ADHD, these thoughts can be a daily occurrence, which can put the brain’s fear response into overdrive.
And when we have a lot of fear, our executive functioning part of the brain (or the brain’s “CEO”) is less effective.
Sooner or later, it’s hard to know which came first: struggling to stay on task or worrying about struggling to stay on task.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between ADHD and Anxiety?
If you have ADHD, you won’t only struggle to stay on task when you worry, it will likely affect multiple parts of life. You could be happy and calm and still get caught daydreaming or criticized for leaving cabinet doors open.
If you have just anxiety, you might be restless or have trouble getting things done––but only when you’re anxious.
If you have both ADHD and anxiety, you’ll experience ADHD symptoms (time management, staying on task, getting started, etc.) regularly. But, those symptoms will be more intense when you’re anxious. The combination of ADHD symptoms and anxiety can feel like getting caught in an emotional storm.
How Can ADHD Treatment Help My Anxiety?
If you want to get to the root of your anxious feelings, you need to treat ADHD and anxiety together. Addressing both sets of symptoms at the same time can look like this:
- Gaining new tools and strategies that use your ADHD symptoms to your advantage so you can get things done
- Communication skills to feel understood more often
- Stress reduction
- Better emotional regulation, self-control, and time management
- CBT for ADHD to improve healthy habits and reduce self-criticism
- ACT for ADHD to “unhook” from negative self-talk and clarify values (improving motivation so you can meet your goals)
Begin ADHD Treatment in Columbus, Ohio
If you’d like to take a more personalized approach to meet your goals this year and feel like you could use some professional support, an ADHD therapist can help. We offer support with ADHD treatment in Columbus Ohio. To start, simply follow these simple steps:
- Click here, email, or call today for a free 15-minute phone consultation.
- Schedule a time to meet for your first appointment.
- Start to calm the emotional storm. Start feeling like yourself again
Other Services Offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling
Anxiety treatment isn’t the only service we offer from our Columbus, OH therapy practice. In addition to depression counseling, we offer adult ADHD treatment, counseling for men with ADHD, anxiety treatment for ADHD, therapy for work stress and burnout, and quarter-life-crisis counseling.