ADHD and Anxiety in Adults: Breaking Down the Relationship


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ADHD and anxiety are two distinct disorders that often occur together. Research suggests that up to 50% of people with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

But what is the relationship between these two conditions? How do they interact with each other? And what can you do if you’re struggling with both conditions?

 Keep reading to find out.

The Difference Between ADHD and Anxiety

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder characterized by focus, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness problems.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, ADHD typically develops in childhood and can persist into adulthood. 

Symptoms of ADHD may include:

  • A hard time paying attention
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Feeling easily over-aroused or restless
  • Acting impulsively without regard to consequences
  • Too many thoughts

In contrast, anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at various points in their life. However, people with anxiety disorders experience chronic, excessive anxiety that interferes with daily activities.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting 40 million adults aged 18 and older. 

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Persistent worry
  • Muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety
  • Fear of trying new things or fear without an obvious cause
  • Headaches and stomach aches

While ADHD and anxiety may present similar symptoms, some key differences exist. For example:

  • People with ADHD are more likely to have problems with impulsivity. On the other hand, people with anxiety disorders tend to worry excessively about potential threats.
  • Additionally, many people with ADHD also experience oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, which are not associated with anxiety disorders.
  • Finally, the exact causes of ADHD are not fully understood. Anxiety disorders often run in families and may be triggered by stressful life events.

The Link between ADHD and Anxiety

There is a complex relationship between ADHD and anxiety. Some people with ADHD may be more prone to developing anxiety disorders. While others may not exhibit any anxiety symptoms at all.

The precise nature of this relationship is not fully understood. However,it is thought that ADHD may predispose some people to anxiety. It may also make it difficult to cope with stress and manage everyday tasks, leading to feelings of anxiety.

There are several possible explanations for this link:

  • People with ADHD may be more prone to worry and rumination due to their inability to focus and stay organized. This can lead to heightened anxiety and physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate and muscle tension.
  • In addition, people with ADHD may be more likely to experience traumas or stressful life events, which can trigger anxiety disorders.
  • Finally, the impulsivity associated with ADHD can put sufferers at greater risk of accidents and dangerous situations. This can lead to increased anxiety about potential injuries.

It is well-known that ADHD and anxiety disorders co-occur. However, the exact relationship between the two is not yet clear. Some researchers believe that ADHD causes anxiety, while others believe that anxiety leads to ADHD. It is also possible that the two conditions share a common underlying cause.

However, it is important to remember that not everyone with ADHD will experience anxiety. Some people with ADHD can live relatively normal lives without any significant anxiety symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Co-Existing Anxiety and ADHD

Anxiety and ADHD often co-occur, and the signs and symptoms of both can overlap. For example, people with anxiety may be easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating, or be in constant motion. Similarly, people with ADHD may experience anxiety symptoms such as racing thoughts, restless energy, or obsessive thinking. 

The presence of both conditions can make diagnosis and treatment more complex. However, it is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Ongoing feelings of tension or edginess
  • Easy to distract
  • Restless energy or constant motion
  • A hard time concentrating or completing tasks
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviors
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability or mood swings.

Treating Co-Occurring ADHD and Anxiety

ADHD and anxiety are two of the most common mental health conditions in adults. While they often co-occur, each disorder has its own unique symptoms and treatment approach.

Anxiety can make it difficult to focus, while ADHD can make it easy to become overwhelmed and anxious. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for both conditions.


Anxiety and ADHD are both treatable with medication. The most common medication prescribed for anxiety is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This type of medication works by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood regulation. By increasing the level of serotonin, SSRIs can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

For ADHD, the most common type of medication prescribed is a stimulant. Stimulants work by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters are important for focus and attention. By increasing levels of these neurotransmitters, stimulants can help to improve focus and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Therapy and relaxation techniques

Medication alone is often not enough. Therapy and relaxation techniques are also essential for managing both anxiety and ADHD.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in treating both conditions. CBT helps address negative thinking patterns and teaches skills for coping with stressors.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness, can also help to reduce anxiety and improve focus.

These treatments can provide significant relief from anxiety and ADHD symptoms when used together.

Lifestyle Changes

When it comes to treating both anxiety and ADHD, several lifestyle changes can be beneficial, including:

  • Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is important for regulating mood and energy levels.
  • Schedule tasks: Creating a daily schedule can also help to provide structure and minimize distractions.
  • Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can benefit overall health and well-being.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and ADHD by releasing endorphins and reducing stress levels.

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty with ADHD or anxiety, it is important to get professional help. A mental health professional can work with you to find the approach that is best suited for your needs.

Mental Health Treatment in Minnesota

It is important to get mental health treatment if you live with ADHD and anxiety. Many resources are available to help you get the treatment you need if you’re in Minnesota. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.