Anxiety can make it hard to identify that you also have ADHD since the symptoms may overlap. ADHD can also mask the symptoms of anxiety. It’s important to identify both conditions to get the best treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may also have another mental health disorder.
Keep reading to learn more about the connection between ADHD and anxiety.
If you have ADHD, it may be difficult to recognize anxiety symptoms.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is an ongoing condition that often starts in childhood and can continue into adulthood. It can affect your ability to concentrate and may result in behavioral problems.
The symptoms can include:
- lack of attention
- lack of impulse control
- fidgeting and trouble sitting still
- difficulty organizing and completing tasks
Learn more about the types of ADHD.
What is anxiety?
An anxiety disorder is more than just feeling occasionally anxious. It’s a mental health condition that’s serious and long lasting. It can make you feel distressed, uneasy, and excessively frightened in benign or regular situations.
Anxiety can occur by itself as generalized anxiety disorder, or it can occur as a symptom of other mental health conditions. These include:
- panic disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD
If you have an anxiety disorder, your symptoms may be so severe that they affect your ability to work, study, enjoy relationships, or otherwise go about your daily activities.
Learn more about anxiety disorders.
The symptoms of ADHD are slightly different from those of anxiety. ADHD symptoms
|ADHD symptoms||Anxiety symptoms|
|difficulty concentrating or paying attention||✓||✓|
|trouble completing tasks||✓|
|inability to relax or feelings of restlessness||✓||✓|
|fidgeting or difficulty sitting still||✓|
|impatience, such as difficulty waiting or interrupting people||✓|
|symptoms of panic such as rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, or sweating||✓|
|difficulty listening to and following instructions||✓|
|inability to focus for long periods of time||✓|
|chronic feelings of worry or nervousness||✓|
|fear without an obvious cause||✓|
|trouble sleeping or insomnia||✓||✓|
|headaches and stomachaches||✓|
|difficulty with executive function||✓|
Even though each condition has unique symptoms, sometimes the two conditions mirror each other. That can make it difficult to tell whether you have ADHD, anxiety, or both.
How can you tell the difference?
Though a professional evaluation is necessary, family members may be able to tell the difference between ADHD and anxiety. The key is to watch how your symptoms present over time.
If you have anxiety, you may be unable to concentrate in situations that cause you to feel anxious. On the other hand, if you have ADHD, you’ll find it difficult to concentrate most of the time in any situation.
If you have both ADHD and anxiety, the symptoms of both conditions may seem more extreme. For example, anxiety can make it even more difficult for someone with ADHD to pay attention and follow through on tasks.
ADHD has been historically
Compared with males, many of whom are diagnosed in childhood, females tend to receive a diagnosis in adulthood.
Research shows that females living with ADHD are
If you’re a female living with anxiety and experiencing some symptoms that may be related to ADHD, it’s a good idea to bring this up with your doctor.
Learn more about females and ADHD.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Treating ADHD and anxiety simultaneously may be challenging because some medications for ADHD can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Both conditions need to be treated, though.
Your doctor may focus first on the condition that’s the most disruptive to your quality of life. They may also provide suggestions for ways to manage the other condition.
It’s important to be truthful and open with your doctor about your symptoms. This is especially true if you suspect you’re experiencing two conditions simultaneously.
Your doctor will want to know if a treatment is making one or both of your conditions worse. That will help them tailor your treatment.
Online therapy options
Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.
There are certain lifestyle changes you can make that can help you cope with both anxiety and ADHD. These include:
- Learn your triggers: In some people, anxiety may be triggered by specific events, such as speaking in public or calling someone on the phone. Work with a doctor to help come up with ways to manage your anxiety in these situations.
- Get enough sleep: Try to sleep for 7 to 8 hours every night. Meditate or take a bath before bed to help quiet your mind. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. People with ADHD can have issues with sleep, so talk with a doctor if you need more support.
- Eat healthfully: Insufficient nutrients or certain food allergies and sensitivities can worsen your symptoms. Begin with an elimination diet to identify triggers. Once you know what to avoid, try eating a balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet. Avoid added sugar and processed foods.
- Create a schedule: If you have ADHD, you may find it hard to complete tasks. This can make anxiety worse. To avoid this, create a realistic schedule and try to stick to it. Expect each activity to take longer than you think.
- Keep a journal: Writing in a journal can help clear your mind. You should feel comfortable writing down anything on your mind. It may also help you pinpoint things you want to discuss with a doctor or therapist.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise may help lower anxiety. In a
reviewof numerous studies, researchers found that exercise lowers anxiety. High-intensity exercise seems to be more effective than lower-intensity exercise, but aim for at least 30 minutesof exercise a day.
It’s not clear why there’s a connection between ADHD and anxiety, and doctors don’t fully understand what causes either condition. Genetics may be responsible for both conditions and may also cause comorbidity.
Researchers have also
Possible causes for ADHD include genetics, environmental toxins, or premature birth. It’s possible that these causes could also contribute to anxiety.
If you have ADHD, it’s important to tell a doctor about all of your symptoms, even if you think they’re unrelated.
It’s possible you could have an additional condition, such as anxiety. You should also inform a doctor about any new symptoms because you could develop anxiety or another condition over time.
Once your doctor has diagnosed you with ADHD and anxiety, you can begin treatment for both conditions.