According to recent studies, about 30 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD have anxiety as well. In adults, that percentage can be as high as 50 percent.
Symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety can sometimes be masked by ADHD symptoms. In addition, a coexistence of anxiety and ADHD may severely impact one’s life quality and overall wellbeing.
Interestingly, the link between ADHD and anxiety is even stronger: studies found that parents of kids with ADHD are also at greater risk for anxiety and depression.
Comparing Symptoms of ADHD and Anxiety
ADHD is a chronic medical disorder largely determined by genetics. The genetic basis of ADHD is almost as strong as that for height. In the past, it was common to define three types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and a Combined Type. Six ago, when DSM-5 was released, it was decided to define ADHD as a single disorder. This is mainly because most people with ADHD go through all the three ADHD types during their lifetime.
The Symptoms of ADHD which belong to the Inattentive dimension include:
- Not listening or paying attention
- Making mistakes
- Being easily distracted and forgetful
- Having difficulty following instructions.
The Symptoms of ADHD which belong to the Hyperactive-Impulsive dimension include:
- An inability to sit still
- Interrupting and talking out of turn
- Blurting things out in class without being asked to give an answer.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is the most common mental disorder affecting more than 20% of the US population. There are numerous forms of anxiety disorders. Common anxiety symptoms include:
- Chronic feelings of worry
- Feeling restless or nervous
- Accelerated heart rate and rapid breathing
- Shaky hands and sweaty palms
- Racing thoughts
- Dizziness and weakness
- Inability to focus thoughts or to focus on anything but one specific trigger
It is easy to see that some symptoms are shared between both of these diagnoses, including trouble concentrating or paying attention and an inability to relax or find calm.Therefore, for people with ADHD it may be difficult to recognize the symptoms of anxiety.
How Anxiety and ADHD interact
ADHD can create or worsen anxiety as adult/children with ADHD tend to be worried about the consequences of their ADHD symptoms. They often fear that their ADHD won’t allow them to succeed in school, exams, or work; they may also fear being humiliated or confronting the reactions of others. In addition, the need to cope with the school/work systems and meet expectations puts a lot of load on them and may lead to stress and/or anxiety for them and their families.
Anxiety, on the other hand, might worsen ADHD symptoms since constant worry and the related physical symptoms make it even harder to concentrate and focus.
Telling the Two Apart
Not all people with ADHD have anxiety, as can be seen by the statistics mentioned above. But, if the inability to focus seems to be triggered by specific situations, instead of a more constant issue, it could be a sign of anxiety.
If your child (or you) have been diagnosed with ADHD, but you feel like there might be other underlying issues, take some time to look at your child/your symptoms and make sure to be open about them when talking to your physician/therapist.
Natural Treatments to Increase Concentration and Reduce Stress
Adequate sleep, sufficient physical exercise, and proper nutrition all can improve ADHD and anxiety/stress symptoms, as does the practice of relaxation techniques. Several studies show that rhythmic, paced breathing balances the autonomic nervous system and therefore can help you become more attentive and more relaxed at the same time. This is especially important for people with ADHD or with stress/anxiety.
While some of the relaxation techniques can be time-consuming, not applicable for children, and/or hard to integrate into a daily routine, there are some easy to use solutions that enhance calm and concentrations (such as CalmiGo) which can be used anytime, anywhere, and can be very useful to achieve mind and body relaxation in a very short time.
Whatever natural solution you are choosing, make sure to practice it for the first few times in a state of calm. This will allow you to get yourself familiar with it and to be able to use it to a successful degree in moments of distress, stress or distraction.