ADHD and Anxiety: Everything You Need to Know

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, or a combination. Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.

If you've been diagnosed with ADHD, you may also have another mental health disorder. It’s estimated over 60% of people with ADHD have a comorbid (coexisting) condition.

In this article, you will learn about the link between ADHD and anxiety, the differences in the two conditions, and the treatments available.

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The Link Between ADHD and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are conditions that are often seen in people with ADHD. About 50% of adults and up to 30% of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.

The symptoms of ADHD and anxiety can sometimes often overlap. Some of the symptoms they have in common include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble completing work and meeting deadlines
  • Restlessness
  • Distraction

A person with ADHD who misses a work deadline or forgets to prepare for an exam can become stressed and worried. Even the fear of failing to do an important task may cause anxiety.

If these feelings and situations continue, which they do for many people with ADHD, they can contribute to an anxiety disorder.

ADHD is often treated with medications that can have a stimulating effect. This may contribute to symptoms of anxiety. For example, one of the common side effects of Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)—a drug frequently prescribed to treat ADHD—is anxiety.

Recap

About half of adults and a third of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD can make someone anxious, and occasionally, the medication used to treat ADHD can contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Differences Between ADHD and Anxiety

Given their similarities and sometimes overlapping symptoms, it can be tough to see the differences between ADHD and anxiety. But there are some key differences:

  • Anxiety is mainly characterized by nervousness, fear, and worry.
  • ADHD is mainly defined by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

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.

How Anxiety Affects ADHD

When you have anxiety along with ADHD, it may make some of your ADHD symptoms worse, such as feeling restless or having trouble concentrating. 

Individuals with anxiety disorders who also have ADHD tend to have more severe anxiety symptoms and become anxious at an earlier age than those without ADHD. ADHD is often diagnosed later in individuals who have anxiety than without anxiety, possibly because the presence of anxiety may inhibit impulsivity, a key symptom of one type of ADHD.

Anxiety can also complicate ADHD treatment because it can make people afraid to try new things. And, to deal with ADHD, it may take trying a few different strategies to keep on top of the condition.

Recap

Sometimes anxiety can make your ADHD symptoms feel more intense. If you are anxious and have ADHD, it may make you more afraid to try out different treatment options.

Does ADHD Make Anxiety Worse?

Individuals diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorders tend to have more severe anxiety symptoms than those without ADHD.

But even people with ADHD who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder may experience occasional anxiety in their daily lives.

In one study on adults with ADHD, researchers noted that problems stemming from ADHD—such as lateness, procrastination, and the thought of social stigma—led participants to experience anxiety at many points in their lives and a worsening of their ADHD symptoms.

Recap

People diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorders tend to have more severe anxiety symptoms than those without ADHD. Even if you don't have an anxiety disorder, you may still experience anxious thoughts in daily life.

How Do You Treat Both ADHD and Anxiety?

A healthcare or mental health professional can help you develop a management plan that will help you cope with both conditions. One thing they will take into consideration is which of the two — ADHD or anxiety — has a greater impact on your daily functioning.

A combination of medication and therapy has been found to be most beneficial for individuals with ADHD and anxiety. Stimulant medications used to treat ADHD may cause temporary anxiety-like side effects, but non-stimulant medications are also available to treat comorbid ADHD and anxiety.

Making changes in your lifestyle and environment can help you manage symptoms of ADHD and anxiety for a better quality of life. Eating healthy, enjoying regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and practicing stress-reduction techniques are great places to start. 

Recap

A combination of medication and therapy has been found to be most beneficial for individuals with ADHD and anxiety. Making changes to your lifestyle to reduce stress and anxiety can also help.

Summary

ADHD and anxiety are distinct conditions, each with its own set of symptoms. But around half of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can worsen symptoms of ADHD and vice versa. Thankfully, a combination of medication and therapy can treat both conditions.

A Word From Verywell

If you have ADHD, it’s important to tell your doctor about symptoms such as anxiety, even if you think they’re unrelated. Once you have been diagnosed with both ADHD and anxiety, you’ll be able to begin treatment for both conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is anxiety always a symptom of ADHD?

    Although anxiety alone is not included in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, almost half of adults diagnosed with ADHD will also have an anxiety disorder.

  • Can ADHD go away?

    New research has shown that only around 10% of children have sustained remission of their ADHD symptoms by young adulthood. ADHD cannot be cured but can be effectively managed.

  • Is anxiety curable?

    Anxiety disorders are not curable but are highly manageable. A person's tendency towards anxiety is part of their genetic makeup—something that treatment cannot change.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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