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Anxiety vs ADHD

When thinking about anxiety vs ADHD, these are two unique diagnoses with different sets of symptoms that are often found together. Because of their similarities, many people mistakenly attribute the symptoms of one diagnosis to the other, leading people down different paths to recovery that don’t always fit their needs or yield the intended results.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD, short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a common mental health diagnosis that can cause significant disruption in everyday life. ADHD symptoms typically fall into two categories: inattentiveness symptoms and hyperactivity symptoms.

Inattentiveness Symptoms

Inattentiveness symptoms are the collection of symptoms that lead to difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks. Some examples of inattentiveness include:

  • Making careless mistakes
  • Extremely short attention spans
  • Frequently switching tasks or activities
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty listening
  • Regularly struggling with finishing tedious or time-consuming tasks
  • Trouble staying organised

These symptoms can make it exceptionally difficult for people to keep up at work, pursue their goals, or even maintain healthy relationships.

Hyperactivity Symptoms

Hyperactivity symptoms, sometimes called impulsiveness, are the second category of ADHD symptoms. Common signs of these symptoms include:

  • Frequent fidgeting
  • Being unable to sit still
  • Rapid speech, or talking over others
  • Interrupting people in conversation
  • Impulsive actions

Particularly in children or teenagers, hyperactivity symptoms can cause a number of problems at school. If hyperactivity extends into adulthood, it can interfere with productivity at work as well.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

ADHD is a developmental disorder — which means that the symptoms often begin in childhood. However, as people transition into adulthood, it can become more difficult for the signs and symptoms of ADHD to be observed.

For example, few adults with ADHD continue to show hyperactivity symptoms, though struggles with inattentiveness typically remain unchanged. This leads to an internalisation of ADHD symptoms, making it difficult to detect ADHD from outside observation, though the challenges that people living with ADHD face remain.

The shifting nature of adult ADHD symptoms leads to them presenting somewhat differently. You may experience symptoms such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Leaving tasks unfinished
  • Difficulty paying attention to details
  • Risky behaviour

These symptoms can, in turn, lead to other mental health problems. Not being able to focus, for instance, can lead to you feeling stressed at work, being anxious about completing your tasks, or having mood changes and sleep disruptions.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

The symptoms of anxiety revolve primarily around excessive worry or fear, often leading to substantial disruption in daily life. Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Constantly feeling on edge
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive and uncontrollable worry
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rapid heart rate

The hallmark of anxiety is an apprehension or worry about upcoming or current events, typically out of proportion to the situation itself. The experience of anxiety can lead people to worry about every potential negative outcome of any particular situation, often crippling them from taking action.

Does ADHD Cause Anxiety?

Living with a diagnosis of ADHD can certainly lead to the experience of anxiety. While everyone’s experience of ADHD symptoms can be unique, it’s common for people with ADHD to leave tasks uncompleted, forget important meetings or events, or get distracted from the most important activities of the day.

When these responsibilities fall into the categories of work or home life, thereby affecting other people, it can lead to people feeling anxious or guilty. If you didn’t complete the project at work on time, for instance, you might feel anxious about your boss’s reaction the next day.

How Often Do Anxiety and ADHD Co-Occur?

ADHD and anxiety frequently co-occur, with as many as 15 to 35% of people with ADHD having a co-occurring anxiety disorder. Of the overall population of people with anxiety disorders, only 9.5% have an ADHD diagnosis.

This relationship further distinguishes the connection between anxiety vs. ADHD. Since people with ADHD are much more likely to have anxiety than the other way around, it suggests that the experience of living with ADHD can directly lead to an anxiety diagnosis.

Parallel Symptoms

Another important factor to consider is the parallel symptoms of anxiety and ADHD. It’s common for people living with either diagnosis to confuse one disorder for the other since both mental health challenges can lead to difficulty concentrating, sleep disruption, and impairment in everyday functioning.

Struggling with productivity can lead to people self-diagnosing an ADHD problem when they may actually be experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. Getting an appropriate diagnosis from a trained mental health provider is the best way to take effective steps towards starting your life in recovery.

Managing Anxiety and ADHD Symptoms

Both anxiety and ADHD symptoms can benefit from lifestyle changes and organisational strategies. While these approaches may not entirely resolve your symptoms, it can make it easier to live with your mental health disorder and maintain your responsibilities.

Some effective symptom management techniques include:

  • Staying Organised: Making lists, keeping a journal, or setting time constraints on work can all be effective strategies to help with either anxiety or ADHD
  • Mindfulness Practices: Mindfulness practices teach you to stay focused on the present moment rather than worrying about the future or constantly switching tasks
  • Exercise and Nutrition: Maintaining a regular exercise practice and prioritising a healthy diet can help with many of the physical symptoms of both anxiety and ADHD

Lifestyle psychiatry is an emerging field that aims to improve mental health outcomes and overall well-being by addressing lifestyle factors that contribute to mental health issues, including diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and social connections. Evaluating and improving lifestyle factors can be especially beneficial for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.

Lifestyle changes, and specifically, lifestyle psychiatry, are two approaches that can help with anxiety and ADHD. There are several other anxiety and ADHD treatment options that provide more targeted approaches to recovery.

Traditional ADHD and Anxiety Treatment Options

Traditional treatment options for both anxiety and ADHD fall into two main categories: talk therapy and medication. These methods have been used for decades and can help you learn more about your condition, develop effective coping methods for mental health symptoms, and provide direct relief through targeted medication.

Assessment and Diagnosis

The first step in any mental health treatment plan is a careful and accurate assessment and diagnosis by a trained mental health specialist. This is particularly critical for people who think they may have either anxiety or ADHD, as there is a substantial overlap between the two conditions.

Working with our team can help you determine your exact diagnosis and help provide you with individualised care options that can start you on the path to recovery.

Therapy

ADHD and anxiety therapy typically focus on helping people change the way they think about their mental health challenges. Your behaviour, mood, and thoughts are all interconnected. By changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel and act.

For people living with anxiety, anxiety therapy can lead to a dramatic reduction in your overall symptoms. Some people may even achieve total remission with therapy alone.

For ADHD, talk therapy is more focused on improving functioning. Your therapist can help you to develop lifestyle changes and organisational strategies to help manage your ADHD symptoms, allowing you to continue living a productive life.

Medication

Medication takes a different approach, through using drugs that can directly influence your mood. This is typically done under the care of a psychiatrist providing medication management services, where they can help you try different medications, adjust the dosage and timing as required, and track your progress over time.

Novel Anxiety and ADHD Treatment Options

While therapy and medication work for many, some people may still not get the results that they hoped for. However, there are new, exciting innovations in the treatment of ADHD and anxiety that address the underlying causes of these disorders more directly and can even work when traditional treatment methods have failed in the past.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing uses the dissociative psychedelic ketamine to rapidly incubate the therapeutic process. Ketamine has been used in medical settings for decades, though its effectiveness in mental health treatment has only begun to be understood recently.

A ketamine-assisted healing session can lead to rapid breakthroughs in talk therapy, condensing what could take months or years into just a few sessions. It has already shown rapid reductions in anxiety symptoms for most patients, even those who have been unsuccessful with traditional treatment options.

Ketamine-assisted healing takes place at our specialised mental health treatment facility, with a team of medical experts and a specially trained therapist there with you for the entire experience. Most of our clients feel the difference straight away, but repeat sessions can often further solidify your mental health progress.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) uses findings from neuroscience for anxiety and ADHD treatment. In both mental health disorders, certain regions of the brain are underactive and contribute to a number of the symptoms you experience.

dTMS provides brief electromagnetic impulses directly to these underactive regions, stimulating them to create new neural pathways. This can cause rapid symptom relief and long-term changes that can last for months or years.

dTMS is completely non-invasive. The process starts with a detailed brain mapping procedure. We then place a specialised cap with powerful magnets over your head. This cap can deliver targeted electrical impulses directly to brain regions associated with both ADHD and anxiety disorders.

Treating ADHD and Anxiety Simultaneously

At APN London, we use the best in both traditional and innovative treatment techniques to help all of our clients get the results they’re hoping for. Best of all, both ADHD and anxiety can be treated simultaneously. Combining traditional and innovative approaches is often the quickest path to fast-acting and long-term results, and our team has the experience and knowledge to help you achieve your goals.

To get started with treatment, call APN London at 0203 984 7699 or fill out our confidential online contact form for more information.

References

  • “Symptoms of ADHD.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2024.
  • Gnanavel, Sundar et al. “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and comorbidity: A review of literature.” World journal of clinical cases vol. 7,17 (2019): 2420-2426. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v7.i17.2420
  • Van Ameringen, Michael et al. “Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in an anxiety disorders population.” CNS neuroscience & therapeutics vol. 17,4 (2011): 221-6. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00148.x