Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common, yet often misunderstood condition. Many people incorrectly believe that ADHD only affects children, but for adults living with ADHD, symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulty focusing on tasks can significantly impair an individual’s functioning.
Recent studies have shown the link between ADHD and other mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. For those with anxiety disorders, the symptoms of ADHD can be even more challenging to manage. On top of that, anxiety symptoms and ADHD symptoms are often misconstrued with one another. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help.
What Is ADHD and What Are Its Symptoms?
ADHD is a neurodevelopment disorder that can affect people of all ages. It is characterized by difficulty focusing on tasks, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, making daily life challenging for those affected.
For example, some of the most common ADHD symptoms include the following:
- Lack of focus
- Difficulty staying organized and on task
- Difficulty understanding instructions
- Difficulty sitting still
Most adults who seek an evaluation for ADHD experience significant problems in one or more major domains — health, occupation, education, driving, or relationships. The following are some of the most common problems:
- Time-blindness; a lack of attention to future events and preparing for them over time
- Inconsistent job/career/educational performance; losing or quitting jobs frequently
- History of academic and/or career underachievement
- Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities, such as completing household chores, parenting tasks, maintenance tasks, paying bills, or organizing things
- Relationship problems due to not completing tasks
- Forgetting important things or getting upset easily over minor things
- Chronic stress and worry due to failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities
- Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt, or blame
What Is An Anxiety Disorder And What Are Its Symptoms?
Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the United States, affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. They involve excessive worry or fear that manifests in different ways such as phobias, obsessions, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The causes for anxiety disorders can range from genetics to adverse experiences early in life to general life stressors.
Some of the most common anxiety disorder symptoms include the following:
- Racing heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Panic attacks
- Intense fear or dread
- Avoiding places or activities that may trigger anxiety
Chronic anxiety can be debilitating. These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger, and can last a long time.
The Relationship Between Anxiety and ADHD
Those with ADHD may be more likely to develop anxiety disorders than those without the disorder. According to research published in 2013 by The American Academy of Pediatrics, roughly 30-50% of individuals with ADHD also experience symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder such as panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
It is thought that individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may be more prone to developing anxiety due to a combination of biological factors such as altered brain chemistry as well as environmental factors like lack of support or learning difficulties as a result of their condition. Additionally, people living with ADHD are often more prone to feelings of failure which can lead to low self-esteem and even depression—making them more susceptible to developing symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.
How To Get A Diagnosis Of ADHD And Anxiety Disorder As An Adult
These days, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children is generally quickly addressed. However, what about adults?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of ADHD or anxiety that are interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s important to seek professional help. Receiving the correct diagnosis is empowering and effective treatments are available.
Stimulant Medications For Treating ADHD and Anxiety Symptoms In Adults
There are many different treatment options for ADHD and anxiety disorders. One common, first-line treatment is ADHD medication. There are several medications available to treat ADHD and anxiety disorder symptoms in adults, but among those, stimulant ADHD medications are perhaps the most common. Stimulants work to improve focus, concentration, and impulse control in adult ADHD. While stimulants can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms, like most medications, stimulants have been associated with some systemic side effects.
Common ADHD medications include methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), and amphetamine (Adderall). These ADHD drugs work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. They can help to improve focus, attention span, and productivity.
Some of the most common side effects associated with ADHD medication include:
- Increased appetite
- Decreased appetite
- Restlessness or agitation
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
It is important to discuss these risks with your doctor before starting treatment. Additionally, these drugs may interact with other treatments for ADHD and anxiety disorders, such as benzodiazepines or SSRI antidepressants.
There are several tips that can help when managing ADHD and anxiety together:
- Discuss your goals for treatment with your doctor so that you understand what each medication will help you achieve.
- Set realistic expectations for how long treatment will take.
- Stick to a consistent daily schedule while taking stimulants so that you don’t experience any unexpected side effects.
- Be sure to keep a record of your moods, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings while taking stimulants so you can track progress over time.
Non-Stimulant Medications To Treat ADHD In Adults With Anxiety
For some people with ADHD, non-stimulant drugs are a better treatment alternative. Non-stimulant medications like atomoxetine, clonidine, and guanfacine can be beneficial for those with both ADHD and anxiety. These medications work to regulate hormones in the brain associated with stress and anxiety, as well as increase alertness and focus.
The benefits of non-stimulant prescriptions for treating ADHD in adults with anxiety include:
- They are easy to take, and most ADHD drugs require only one or two daily doses.
- They are generally well-tolerated by patients.
- They have few side effects.
- They can be effective in treating both mild and moderate cases of ADHD.
There are a variety of non-stimulant prescriptions that are available for adults with ADHD and anxiety. Some examples include antidepressants such as:
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- SNRIs (serotonin noradrenergic reuptake inhibitors)
- MAOIs (mixed amphetamine salts)
These medications work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which can help to improve ADHD and anxiety symptoms.
Managing Side Effects Of Medication Treatment For Adult ADHD
When it comes to managing ADHD and anxiety, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach as each person’s needs and health goals are unique. However, there are some general strategies that can be applied to help manage both conditions. For example, developing a mindfulness practice, managing stress, setting realistic goals, and breaking tasks down into small steps can be beneficial for both conditions. Additionally, many people find that incorporating other therapies into their treatment plans – such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – is helpful.
When taking medications to treat adult ADHD and anxiety, it’s important to be aware of the risks and various side effects that may occur. Some of the most common side effects associated with these medications include:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain/loss
- High blood pressure
It’s also important to be aware of health risks related to the long-term use of certain medications. For example, some ADHD medications can increase the risk of developing heart disease or stroke over time. There are usually pros and cons to starting and medication regimen, so be sure to discuss your personal and family medical history with your doctor when you are deciding which treatment is right for you.
The Bottom Line
ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect children and adults. Currently, there is no cure for ADHD. However, ADHD is highly treatable with medications and lifestyle changes. There are both stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD medication treatment options which can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms. Non-stimulant ADHD medication, such as alpha-blockers and SSRIs, have many benefits and may be more suitable for adults with anxiety disorders. It’s important to speak to your doctor about your individual needs so you can make informed decisions about your care and manage both conditions effectively.
If you want to learn more about ADHD medication options for adults with anxiety, schedule a call with a psychiatrist at Neuro Wellness Spa.