ADHD and Anxiety: Symptoms, Connections & Coping Mechanisms

Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) lead frightened lives. The nature of ADHD steadily makes day-to-day existence disturbing, creating situations and environments fraught with uncertainty – anxiety’s primary fuel.

That is why ADHD cannot be mentioned with out mentioning anxiety, whether that suggests pesky, tough bouts of worry that present best in specific contexts (like assembly work points in time or making difficult back-to-school decisions), or full-fledged anxiety disorder. Either means, the link between the two is direct, so much in order that anxiety is the most typical comorbid analysis with adult ADHD.

This ADHD-anxiety link is magnified as of late through a virtually universal and unprecedented stressor: the pandemic. A giant, unfamiliar cloud of uncertainty hovers indefinitely over us, dropping rain feelings of discomfort and anxiety that make this courting not possible (and dangerous) to ignore.

Is Anxiety a Symptom of ADHD?

Although anxiety by myself isn't integrated in the diagnostic criterion for ADHD, the hyperlink between the two stipulations is powerful. Individuals with ADHD are much more likely to have an anxiety disorder than are individuals without the condition, with rates coming near 50 %.1

Anxiety refers to our psychological and physiological reaction to a perceived chance or threat. Anxiety disorders, which range from social anxiety disorder to panic assaults to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more, are characterised through consistent emotions of worry and fear that intrude with day by day existence.

[Could You Have Anxiety? Take This Symptoms Test]

Some symptoms — like fidgeting and hassle concentrating — are hallmarks of each ADHD and anxiety. As a end result, clinicians must rule out anxiety and different mental problems when diagnosing ADHD, and vice versa.

Does ADHD Make Anxiety Worse?

Individuals identified with ADHD and anxiety issues have a tendency to have more critical anxiety symptoms than do those with out ADHD.2 But even adults with ADHD who don't meet the diagnostic standards for anxiety might revel in occasional and situational anxiety in their day by day lives – precisely as a result of ADHD, which might reason time blindness, poor running memory, and exaggerated feelings, amongst different anxiety-producing signs.

In one study on adults with ADHD, researchers noted that issues stemming from ADHD — such as tardiness, procrastination, and the prospect of social stigma — all led members to enjoy anxiety at many points in their lives, “and once they had been worried, their ADHD symptoms worsened.”3

Other ADHD Symptoms That Exacerbate Anxiety

“Consistent Inconsistency”

Inherent uncertainty about how an match or a role will play out is on the core of anxiety. Understanding “constant inconsistency,” a not unusual component of lifestyles with ADHD, is vital to understanding the power anxiety of residing with ADHD. “Consistent inconsistency” describes the mistrust and uncertainty in your self that builds up after years of experiencing ADHD signs reminiscent of inattention, weigh down, memory lapses, and extra. “Consistent inconsistency” is understanding, for instance, that a assignment needs to be completed, but doubting the facility to get it accomplished.

[Click to Read: What Anxiety Disorders Look Like in Adults]

ADHD as a Performance Problem

Individuals with ADHD know what they want to do, but they have got problems with implementation – a pressure that begets anxiety. This is a large a part of what makes ADHD maddening, in particular in adulthood. Barriers to implementation include the next:

  • Self-regulatory efficacy: “I know I will be able to do that, however I’m not certain if I will face up to distraction or focal point.”
  • Incautious optimism: Otherwise known as distorted sure thoughts. “I paintings splendid on the final minute.”
  • Front-end perfectionism: “I must be within the mood/have sufficient energy to do something.” These unlikely requirements are by way of some distance the most common distorted computerized idea within adults with ADHD.
  • Emotional dysregulation: While now not included in the DSM-5, emotional intensity is a central function of ADHD. Part of managing anxiety is with the ability to alternate and regulate our emotional states in order that we can readily engage in a job. Failing to control discomfort successfully can lead to avoidance and procrastination, which exacerbates and is exacerbated by means of anxiety.

How Do You Treat Both ADHD and Anxiety?

Both ADHD and anxiety are treated thru drugs and/or psychosocial remedy. Often, treatment that focuses on one situation if truth be told improves symptoms in each, though that relies on the individual. Still, clinicians always attempt to deal with essentially the most serious situation first.

Stimulant medications used to regard ADHD normally do not worsen anxiety signs, and non-stimulants are regarded as second-line pharmacological treatments for comorbid ADHD and anxiety. A mix of drugs and remedy, alternatively, has been discovered to be most really helpful for people with ADHD and anxiety.4

General emotions of anxiety will also be quelled thru wholesome coping mechanisms.

ADHD and Anxiety During the Pandemic

With ADHD minds experiencing so much crush and so many new stressors – like running remotely from home, assuming the role of teacher, navigating disorienting routines, and treating health issues – it’s essential, greater than ever, to broaden abilities to successfully organize anxiety and reach resiliency.

Regulate Emotions, Behaviors & the Mindset

To successfully manage your anxiety, start via using your emotions and behaviors as information. Anxiety or an differently troubling feeling can sign the question, “What’s this discomfort telling me?” Good follow-up questions come with:

  • What am I feeling?
  • What is the issue?
  • What was once the cause?
  • Is the problem in point of fact an issue? If so, how can or not it's managed?
  • What’s the finest, worst, and perhaps result of the problem?

Pursue this disentanglement workout through writing. Making notes in your telephone or computer is fine, however there's something extra therapeutic and engaging about using pen and paper to write out stressors and worries. Either approach, shifting the problem from your head and seeing it take form as textual content assist you to obviously see what’s on your control, and what’s not. The exercise is also one in every of publicity – coming face-to-face with the problem.

Here’s the workout in action: Suppose you find yourself self-medicating via alcohol or binge consuming all the way through quarantine. How are you able to manage these urges?

  • Ask: “What am I feeling? What is the advantage of this behavior? What am I getting out of it?” These behaviors are usually related to lowering anxiety, numbing oneself to worry, or feeling in regulate. Labeling the feeling (anxiety, crushed, out of regulate) could also be a form of acknowledging the situation, in turn an action that calms us.
  • Identify the triggers or problems that gave rise to the bingeing or self-medicating conduct. This varies according to the person, however common ones come with boredom, loneliness, worries about meeting tasks, unrest or stress at house, work-related stress, and even the scoop cycle.
  • Think hard about these triggers and issues. Are the listed issues in reality problems? Maybe you gave your self an unrealistic deadline to satisfy the duty you’re stressing over. What are the best- and worst-case situations, and what’s possibly to occur? Thinking through these can assist us reside in the chances rather than the probabilities – the problem will not be an issue in spite of everything.
  • That stated, self-medicating on alcohol and bingeing are problems that want addressing. One strategy to handle both is thru stimulus keep watch over – putting off temptations within the household – and on the lookout for substitute behaviors, like swapping in healthy meals or changing alcohol with any other liquid or stimulus, like tea or paying attention to calming track. Of course, if these or any other problems really feel totally out of control, it can be ideal to get in contact with a licensed mental health clinician.

Other Coping Mechanisms for ADHD and Anxiety Today

  1. Structure unstructured time. There’s no means round it: Creating routine is a must, particularly one who’s highly visual. That might be an appointment planner, a calendar at the wall, or a digital planner saved open on a tablet. Think of planners as time machines that permit us to appear hours, days, and weeks into the longer term, priming us for what we plan to do. Breaks should be worked into any agenda, including making room for…
  2. Exercise and motion. We underestimate the lack of “stealth” movement during the process the standard workday (strolling down hallways, to the parking zone or train station, etc.). As elementary as it sounds, movement helps. This is especially true when cooped up and working from house. Movement can be its personal type of meditation, permitting us to take away ourselves from work or house and reset.
  3. Maintain healthy habits. Many people, ADHD or not, are experiencing power pressure and common feelings of overwhelm with no person specific stressor. Better workout, sleep, and nutrition — like restricting physical anxiety triggers like caffeine and alcohol — are efficient at lowering total tension.
  4. Specify duties. Avoid vaguely defining activities, and as an alternative fill your calendar with task- or time-based pieces. Reviewing a file for work can be a 15-minute of 15-page task, and checking emails can be a 5-emails or 5-minute job. Clearly laying out tasks helps battle front-end perfectionism and becomes a very simple way to interact in a task for which you don't seem to be “within the temper.” Discomfort fades soon after engagement.
  5. Organize bodily areas. Define the place work, recreational, sleep, learn about, and other activities might be done round the home to assist with behavioral priming and dependancy formation. Combat “sight pollution” via resetting and getting ready your areas for the next day, which additionally is helping with transitions.
  6. Stay on ADHD medicine and proceed to attend psychotherapy sessions if appropriate. Medications assist reduce ADHD signs and toughen coping and functioning, helping adults with ADHD feel extra efficacious and, general, less anxious. Same goes for psychotherapy, now widely to be had remotely.
  7. Lower the bar on expectancies. We can’t be expecting the same performance on this pandemic international as earlier than. That’s a recipe for entrapment. Instead, we will be able to reframe tasks into do-able terms and take on a sufficiency mindset. Being just right enough is healthier than anticipating to be best, and this mentality alone can get you unstuck and to a much less anxious state. Now’s most definitely not the time to embark in radically new endeavors, but it can be for brand new opportunities, like attending to deferred projects around the house.
  8. Decatastrophize. Maintaining perspective and practicing gratitude is needed to get via all of this, although loss, in any way, has touched the household. One strategy to modify thoughts is to disengage with the inflexible “must” mindset –– as in things “will have to” most effective figure out one way and are no just right in the event that they don’t. We too can “defuse” via accepting some damaging thoughts for what they're – just ideas.

[Read This Next: How to Stop Anxiety and Its Triggers]

The content for this webinar used to be derived from the ADDitude Expert Webinar “Coping with Anxiety and Adult ADHD in the Pandemic World” by means of J. Russell Ramsay, which was once broadcast continue to exist June 25, 2020.

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1Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Barkley, R., Biederman, J., (2006). The incidence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 163(4), 716–723.

2 Katzman, M. A., Bilkey, T. S., Chokka, P. R., Fallu, A., & Klassen, L. J. (2017). Adult ADHD and comorbid issues: clinical implications of a dimensional manner. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1), 302.

3 Managing ADHD in kids, youngsters, and adults with comorbid anxiety in number one care. (2007). Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 9(2), 129–138.

4 Kolar, D., Keller, A., Golfinopoulos, M., Cumyn, L., Syer, C., & Hechtman, L. (2008). Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4(2), 389–403.

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