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ADHD and Anxiety – Is There a Relationship?

Do ADHD and anxiety go hand in hand?

If you have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, you may also be experiencing challenges with anxiety. But, what is it about these conditions that causes them to occur together?

ADHD Facts

By now nearly everyone has heard of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHA). ADHD is a mental illness that is thought to be biological in nature. ADHA is the same as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) – the name that was originally used when people first became aware of the disorder. Although the names are often used interchangeably, the most current name is ADHD.

ADHD symptoms include:

  • an inability to focus
  • restlessness
  • disorganization
  • difficulty completing tasks
  • impulsive behavior
  • hyperactivity in children, although this behavior tends to diminish in adulthood

You do not have to experience all of these symptoms to have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

How common is ADHD? Statistics show that about 11 million adults (about 5% of the USA’s population) have the condition. However, less than 20% of adults who have the disorder have actually been diagnosed and, of those identified adults, only about 25% have pursued treatment. People who were diagnosed in childhood often continue to experience symptoms in adulthood – about two thirds of children with the condition will continue to require some form of treatment in their adult life. Additionally, while we used to think the disorder only affected males, we now know females can have ADHD.

Can You Have Both ADHD and Anxiety?

Experiencing ADHD and anxiety is more common than you may think. Somewhere between 30% and 50% of adults with ADHD will also have some type of anxiety disorder. These disorders can range anywhere from generalized anxiety or social anxiety to panic disorder, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The reason anxiety is so common in conjunction with ADHD is twofold. First, there is a theory that both ADD and anxiety disorders may carry a genetic component. Having a close relative with either condition can increase your chances of being diagnosed with their same disorder. Additionally, research is being conducted to find out if there is an environmental component that triggers both conditions, such as exposure to lead or toxins.

The second reason is that having the disorder is stressful and can lead to feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable. When you worry about things like possibly forgetting a work deadline or when your symptoms affect your relationships or daily activities, you may feel angry or disappointed. Being upset and anxious can make it more difficult to seek help and may cause people to stay in their comfortable but potentially ineffective patterns.

Anxiety and ADHD Treatment

Because ADHD is a brain-based disorder, it is generally treated with medication to help normalize brain function. The challenge to treatment with medicine, however, is that some ADHD prescriptions can worsen the symptoms of anxiety in some patients.

Ideally, a combined approach to anxiety and ADHD treatment works best. This should include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or another form of mindfulness based therapy, in addition to medication. These therapies provide coping techniques: learning these skills can be an invaluable tool to help you stay positive about change.

Undergoing CBT can help you improve productivity, learn to be accountable, and can aid in identifying and achieving goals. Additionally, support groups and talk therapy can help you come to terms with the interpersonal effects the disorder can bring. Feelings of shame, guilt, failure, and their resulting stress can be reduced by processing them in a friendly, compassionate setting.

There also are some steps you can take at home to help improve your symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly (30 minutes per day) to decrease anxiety.
  • Create schedules to help stay on task.
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Being well-rested helps reduce anxiety.
  • Identify your triggers and work with your therapist to learn coping strategies.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing.
  • Decrease your stress and surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
  • Try to minimize worry and negative thinking.

If You Have Questions, We Can Help

If you have questions or need help managing your ADHD and anxiety, the therapists at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are there to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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