ADHD and Anxiety: How to Distinguish Between the Both

April 30, 2021


ADHD and anxiety may sometimes look the same, and you might end up misdiagnosing one for the other. The truth, however, is that the two are very different even though the symptoms look similar. Receiving the correct diagnosis is essential in helping you find the proper treatment for your child.

The correct diagnosis might do good, but if your child receives the wrong ADHD and anxiety treatment, it could do them more harm than good. A 2016 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more than 6 million children were diagnosed with ADHD in that year alone. 

Although researchers aren’t quite sure of what causes ADHD, they have the research to back the suggestion that it exists. The condition is not caused by too much sugar, bad behavior, or wearing too much yellow, like some crazy theories suggest. Most people who have ADHD do often show symptoms of anxiety. Studies revealed that up to 30% of children and 50% of adults with ADHD also have an underlying anxiety disorder.

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So how can you tell between the two conditions that look so similar that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart?


Is It ADHD or Anxiety?

If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, you may have difficulty recognizing the symptoms of anxiety. ADHD is a condition that usually starts in childhood and carries on into one’s adulthood. The disease affects your ability to concentrate on projects and may lead to behavioral issues like:

  • Lack of an impulse control
  • Trouble sitting still and often fidgeting
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty planning, organizing, and finishing tasks

Contrary to common opinion, anxiety extends to more than just feeling anxious. It’s a mental illness that has some serious, long-lasting effects. It can make you uneasy, frightened in non-threatening or regular situations, and distressed. If your anxiety disorder is severe, it may end up affecting your social and professional life and your ability to take part in everyday activities.

There is an easy way to tell between ADHD and anxiety among children. ADHD symptoms typically involve problems with concentration and focus. On the other hand, anxiety symptoms involve fear and nervousness. While each condition has its unique symptoms, sometimes ADHD and anxiety symptoms mirror each other.

When this happens, it can be difficult telling whether you have anxiety, ADHD, or both. In simpler terms, ADHD can affect your ability to concentrate in situations that make you nervous, such as performing in front of a crowd. ADHD can affect your ability to focus generally in any situation.


Common Physical Symptoms of Anxiety


Does ADHD Make Anxiety Worse?

While ADHD may not necessarily make anxiety worse, getting the wrong medications can worsen your anxiety. If you receive a diagnosis, ensure that you are as honest as possible about your life and symptoms. If you lie about any of the two, you could expose yourself to the wrong treatment and medications, which may worsen your anxiety.

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Can Untreated ADHD Lead to Anxiety?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might be a common diagnosis for children, but adults can have it too. Some people develop the condition after they mature, and others leave it untreated unknowingly. Like all mental health issues, if ADHD is left untreated, it can create an excellent breeding ground for depression and anxiety.

Many studies on the connection between ADHD and anxiety suggest that untreated ADHD can lead to other mental health issues. ADHD has comorbidities which essentially means that it can exist alongside another mental health issue.

If you have ADHD, there’s a high likelihood that you can easily get anxiety if you don’t seek medical help for your ADHD. People with ADHD are usually more impulsive and tend to act without fully understanding the consequences. The failure to understand the effects, in turn, leads to overwhelming problems for the individual, which may lead to ADHD, anxiety, and depression.


Common ADHD Symptoms in Adults


Which ADHD Medication Is Best for Anxiety?

Treating anxiety and ADHD together may be difficult because, as mentioned above, some ADHD medications may heighten anxiety symptoms. However, both conditions have to be treated. Your doctor may choose to first focus on the condition that disrupts your quality of life. They may also provide you with suggestions on how to manage the condition you’re receiving treatment for.

There is conflicting data about whether providing stimulant medications to ADHD patients can improve anxiety symptoms. A study done on 42 patients with ADHD and comorbid anxiety uncovered that Methylphenidate treatment positively affected anxiety symptoms. Other studies, however, prove that stimulants have zero effect on anxiety symptoms and may worsen your anxiety.

If your anxiety symptoms are heightened after using stimulants, your doctor may recommend other types of medications such as Atomoxetine, also called Strattera, which is a non-stimulant. They may also recommend some antidepressants like Wellbutrin and Norpramin.

ADHD medications typically boost the necessary neurochemicals, thus stimulating some parts of the brain to work a little harder. If your child has ADHD and social anxiety, seeking a one-use-for-all type of medication for a child with ADHD and anxiety for both conditions might not help them at all. Most times, stress and ADHD are treated separately to address each situation individually.

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We Can Help

At Mango Medical Clinic, we take great pride in restoring your mental health. We have caring and skilled doctors who are always ready to provide treatment for various medical conditions, including ADHD and anxiety. We have also made it easy for you to get an emotional support animal letter with our team of licensed doctors.

We care a lot about your mental health, which is why we offer low-cost, flexible options, and reliable care when you visit us and when you get your treatment. Contact us at (305) 776-2898 or click the banner below to book your appointment.


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