Can ADHD cause anxiety? How to treat it

can adhd cause anxiety
Medically reviewed by Dr. Devindra Bhatt


“Is it anxiety, ADHD, or both?” Missing a deadline, misplacing your belongings, or not being able to stick to a routine can be stressful. This stress can make you restless, nervous, or worried, causing you to question if it is normal for you to experience these emotions are just ADHD alone. 

People with ADHD can experience other conditions alongside it, and the most common of them is anxiety. Aside from the daily physical and mental hurdles, anxiety can interfere with how ADHD is usually treated. This blog explains how ADHD and anxiety influence each other, their differences, and how you can treat them.

Does ADHD cause anxiety?

ADHD and anxiety are separate conditions, but it is common for the two to co-exist. More often than not, individuals with ADHD develop chronic anxiety due to their symptoms. A 2021 study found that 40% of children with ADHD end up developing anxiety disorders as well. 

When a person with ADHD misses a deadline, forgets their belongings, or is stressed, they can start to worry, fear, or feel anxious. Feeling nervous sometimes is normal, but if these feelings continue, they can lead to an anxiety disorder. Both conditions worsen each other’s symptoms and can complicate the treatment process.

Anxiety can make you feel alone and overwhelmed. We are just a click away from helping you.

How do anxiety and ADHD influence one another?

People with ADHD can occasionally be anxious regardless of whether they are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or not. According to a 2017 research, those diagnosed with both ADHD and anxiety experience more symptoms of anxiety than those with ADHD alone. 

The combination of ADHD and anxiety can make it challenging to focus, plan, and execute tasks. Individuals suffering from the two can procrastinate, miss their deadlines, or neglect their responsibilities to focus on things they find interesting. 

As a result, they may develop traits such as time blindness and impulsive behavior, leading to low self-esteem, restlessness, and feelings of not being enough. 

What is the difference between anxiety and ADHD?

Anxiety is a mental disorder related to worry and nervousness, while ADHD is the lack or trouble with paying attention and keeping focus. Anxiety and ADHD have some similar symptoms, which makes it tough to differentiate between the two. A few ways to tell them apart are 

  • People with anxiety disorders have trouble focusing and experience restlessness after being in situations that make them anxious. People with ADHD, on the other hand, experience them even when they are not worried or nervous.
  • People with anxiety can also have trouble with perfectionism which is not typically seen in those with ADHD.
  • ADHD presents itself in early childhood, commonly before the age of 12. Anxiety is typically seen in teenagers and young adults. 

Dr. Leon Rozewics, an expert ADHD psychiatrist and medical director specialist at Priory Hospital London, says that 

“80% of ADHD patients have co-existing psychiatric disorders, and 70% of them have depression and anxiety. It is easy to misdiagnose other disorders as ADHD.”

How to treat ADHD and anxiety in adults?

Treatment for ADHD and anxiety depends on which condition is affecting the individual the most. Keep reading to learn more about which treatment is the best for you.

Therapy for ADHD and anxiety

Therapy can help manage the anxiety that comes with ADHD. The most common forms of ADHD therapy for anxiety include

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used in the short term to help people develop more positive thinking patterns. It has been known to be effective in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and related conditions.
  • Relaxation techniques: Meditation, visualization, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation exercises help regulate stress and slow heart rate. They also boost concentration and mood, which can help with treating ADHD and anxiety. 

Prescription medication

Stimulating medications such as such as amphetamines and methylphenidate are typically the best medication to treat ADHD. However, stimulants can cause anxiety as a side effect and worsen the existing symptoms. 

If you are experiencing these side effects, your doctor will prescribe you non-stimulant medication instead, such as

  • Antidepressants like fluoxetine and sertraline
  • High blood pressure medications such as guanfacine (Tenex)
  • Viloxazine
  • Atomoxetine 

Lifestyle changes

While medication and therapy are primarily used for treating ADHD and anxiety, adopting healthy lifestyle habits can help speed up the recovery process. 

  • Get good and adequate rest.
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Eat balanced meals and stay hydrated
  • Create a realistic daily routine
  • Make a to-do list and schedule your daily activities
ADHD can make you feel like you are never doing enough. We understand and can help you within minutes.

When should I see a doctor?

Individuals with ADHD can experience nervousness and stress related to daily activities, similar to anyone else. However, if this worry is leading to persistent feelings of dread, stress, anxiety, frustration, or irritation, or if you are having panic or anxiety attacks, then you should see a doctor. 

FAQs about ADHD cause anxiety

Should you treat ADHD or anxiety first?

Treating ADHD is recommended first, as it can sometimes be the cause of anxiety. If the anxiety does not subside, it can be later treated with medication and behavioral therapy. 

Can ADHD cause obsessive thoughts?

Obsessive thoughts can be a symptom of ADHD. People with ADHD often struggle to ignore negative thoughts and tend to overthink and replay them. This is commonly known as looping in ADHD.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Pliszka, Steven R. “ADHD and anxiety: clinical implications.” Journal of Attention Disorders 23.3 (2019): 203-205.
  • Koyuncu, Ahmet, et al. “ADHD and anxiety disorder comorbidity in children and adults: Diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.” Current Psychiatry Reports 24.2 (2022): 129-140.
  • Grogan, Katie, and Jessica Bramham. “Demographic, developmental and psychosocial predictors of the development of anxiety in adults with ADHD.” ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 8 (2016): 35-44.

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