ADHD and Anxiety

When someone is diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety issues, a more comprehensive approach to medication and behavioral modifications needs to be taken in order to properly treat someone suffering from these two disorders.

While ADHD is generally diagnosed in someone during their childhood or adolescence, an anxiety disorder may not be discovered until later on, especially as the patient reaches middle and high school years. This is a time when peer pressure and intense concentration on the self emerges which exacerbates the already existing problem of ADHD.

ADHD and anxiety symptoms are somewhat similar but have distinct differences which allow a professional to make a correct diagnosis. The most common signs of ADHD are:

  • being disorganized, forgetting appointments
  • inability to concentrate on tasks and finish them in a timely manner
  • poor listening and/or communication skills
  • frequently late to work, events, etc
  • impulsive behavior

Someone who practices these types of behaviors will inevitably encounter anxiety-producing situations directly caused by these behaviors. As a result, ADHD and anxiety are frequently co-morbid in an individual because they suffer the consequences of actions they are unable to prevent.

Anxiety symptoms in ADHD sufferers may include these:

  • feeling internally restless and agitated
  • constant fidgeting
  • talking excessively and sometimes rambling incoherently
  • headaches, stomachaches
  • insomnia
  • profuse sweating

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common diagnosis given to patients with anxiety and ADHD. This type of anxiety affects a high percentage of non-ADHD sufferers and manifests in symptoms like:

  • irrational worry about things, events or possible situations
  • anticipation of "disasters" when there is no reason to do so
  • difficulty breathing and/or swallowing
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • panic attacks

While most individuals with ADHD can perform normal day to day activities, those who have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder may have trouble functioning normally because they are so involved with their worries and anxieties. Relationships and employment usually suffer setbacks due to a severe generalized anxiety disorder.

Treatment for ADHD and Anxiety

Treatment plans for those suffering from anxiety and ADHD utilize medication for both ADHD and anxiety symptoms and cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • For ADHD, commonly prescribed medications are Adderal, Buspar and Concerta.
  • Anxiety issues are often relieved by giving the patient an SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which prevents serotonin from essentially "leaking out" of receptors before the brain has a chance to use it. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which plays a pivotal role in mood stabilizing, sleep and appetite. Popular SSRI's prescribed by doctors to reduce anxiety symptoms are Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a kind of "talk" therapy which focuses on thought patterns which are maladaptive to an individual's well-being and perspective. A patient with anxiety and ADHD will engage in CBT by examining the ways in which thoughts affect mood and behavior. For example, someone who is suffering from the inability to concentrate along with the feeling that something bad is going to happen will be asked by the therapist to systematically take apart these thoughts and come to a conclusion which substantiates the fact that they are baseless thoughts. These types of beliefs are viewed more as hypotheses rather than truths. As a result, anxiety and ADHD sufferers learn to differentiate between "automatic thoughts" and thinking which is rationally created.

ADHD and anxiety can be effectively controlled with a combination of counseling and medication. In addition, some patients have found further symptom alleviation when adjusting their diets and getting enough daily exercise. Consuming an excessive amount of foods containing processed sugars and flour can affect the already unstable body chemistry of an ADHD/anxiety sufferer, so reducing intake of unhealthy carbohydrates may also lend relief to your symptoms.


› ADHD and Anxiety

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