Understanding the Relationship Between ADHD and Anxiety

Understanding the Relationship Between ADHD and Anxiety

In the same way that some physical illnesses share common symptoms, mental health disorders can share certain behaviors. This can, unfortunately, lead to a misdiagnosis or to further frustration as the person struggles to understand what is happening in their brain.

This can sometimes happen with anxiety disorders and ADHD. Therefore, in order to best treat the behaviors associated with these conditions, it's important to understand the relationship between ADHD and anxiety.

ADHD and Anxiety Have Different Causes

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It can cause an inability to focus and can lead to behavioral issues such as difficulty sitting still, fidgeting, lack of impulse control, and disorganization. While adult ADHD does exist, this disorder is commonly diagnosed in childhood and can persist into adulthood.

On the other hand, anxiety disorders can develop in any stage of life due to a number of different causes. Someone who has anxiety typically seems nervous, uneasy, or scared in everyday situations due to internal fear caused by certain triggers or stressors, as well as distorted thinking patterns.

ADHD and Anxiety Have Similar Behaviors

While the causes of these two disorders are different, the associated symptoms and behaviors can be similar and often lead to diagnostic confusion. These behaviors can include:

  • An Inability to Relax: Someone with ADHD has difficulty relaxing because of a brain-caused issue. Someone with anxiety may feel too nervous to relax.

  • Fidgeting: A child with ADHD may twiddle their thumbs because they have a lot of energy, while a child with anxiety may do so as their fear physically manifests itself.

  • Working Slowly: A person with ADHD may take longer to complete a project because they cannot focus on a single task. A person with anxiety may take longer because they have perfectionist tendencies and are worried it won't be good enough.

  • Difficulties Making Friends: A child with ADHD may not be able to focus or pick up on social cues, while a child with social anxiety is afraid their peers may not like them which makes it difficult for them to make friends.

How to Differentiate ADHD and Anxiety

Without the proper training and expertise, it can be difficult to differentiate ADHD from anxiety. it's often best to seek professional help in the diagnosis and treatment of these mental health disorders.

The team at the Neurobehavioral Institute can expertly diagnose psychological disorders and utilizes a combination of evidence-based therapies to help ease anxiety, manage stress, and gradually eliminate avoidance behaviors.


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