Understanding the Link Between ADHD and Anxiety

People with ADHD 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder.

Source: Alex Vámos on Unsplash

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, is a common mental health disorder, along with anxiety. ADHD and anxiety are two different types of mental health disorders that can both influence one another.

Many people with ADHD are known as the person who is always running late or are a perpetual mess. Behind that late, messy friend lies someone who could very well be experiencing anxiety.

People living with ADHD are nearly 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder than people without ADHD. With an alarming statistic like that, it’s essential to know how ADHD and anxiety can intermingle and affect one another.

Anxiety and ADHD

Someone with ADHD may experience anxiety because of their poor attention skills or hyperactive behavior–I know this was partially true. I already had anxiety as a child growing up. The lack of attentive skills and time management really affected me.

I felt like a failure compared to my friends. I couldn’t manage my time as well as other people, which meant I had to limit my opportunities. I knew that i wasn’t able to take on extra responsibility, and if I did I would have to work hard to stay on track.

Research has actually shown that ADHD can actually worsen anxiety symptoms with restlessness and issues with concentration. With the symptoms of ADHD being hyperactive behavior and inattentiveness, there can be moments of the world you miss simply because you couldn’t pay attention.

Anxiety pulls your attention to focus on your anxiety symptoms, which can distract you from your daily tasks. Coupled with inattentive behavior, it can snowball into a mess. Before you know it your day is over and you haven’t been able to accomplish what you set out to do.

For example, I struggled to focus and concentrate in school while in lectures. It was difficult, and it caused me to have added anxiety. I felt that my inattention was due to a lack of motivation or willpower. I felt like the weakest, most unmotivated, lazy person in my entire life.

For me, the ever-nagging thought that I would forget something or neglect something by accident. Maybe I would be the office chatterbox. I was terrified of how I indeed was because of my ADHD. I wanted to branch out from that, but it was hard.

Can ADHD impact anxiety?

Research suggests that someone with ADHD experiencing anxiety may have heightened ADHD symptoms. Anxiety and ADHD seem to crash against one another, aggravating symptoms and causing more distress.

With the symptoms of ADHD, they are bound to interact and cause or aggravate someone’s anxiety. The inability to focus AND properly plan leaves a massive gap in my day.

I have little understanding of time awareness–I am entirely time blind, thanks to my ADHD. Couple that with the stress that anxiety brings, there heightened struggle everyday.

With the increase in stress, anxiety can increase too. If someone lives with a lot of anxiety and has ADHD, the symptoms can keep worsening, creating a chain reaction of issues.

The duration, severity, and comorbidity of the disorders combined can feel overpowering.

Long term effects

The long-term effects of ADHD and anxiety can be the vicious cycle that keeps those suffering looped in. In the long term, people have to learn to survive; they learn to adapt to these symptoms. Adapting is a difficult thing to reach, especially when it feels hopeless.

Constantly seeking relief from anxiety and ADHD symptoms may lead some people to lean towards harmful behaviors such as drug use.

Overall, ADHD and anxiety have lowered my self-esteem and confidence in my abilities simply because I couldn’t work as my classmates did. Sitting still and doing the same thing every day feels like torture.

Through time I learned to treat myself as the girl who wasn’t too bright because she couldn’t keep track of her keys and wallet. I turned my ADHD into a joke so I could pass. I was worried that I would be the target enemy if people saw just how forgetful and inattentive I could be. Of course, I didn’t really feel like in my friendship groups, but more at work.

I had to turn my struggle into a joke because I didn’t want people to see how much of a mess I was. Having to live with this mantra in your head can really eat away at you.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

ADHD is More Than Just Inattention

The signs and symptoms of ADHD I wished I had known sooner

photo credit: Elizabeth Lies on Unsplash

My morning started like it always did; I got up and was ready to leave for work. As I get outside and head to my car, I notice something small folded on the ground.

It looks like someone dropped their wallet — it sucks for them!

I was unbothered until I saw that it was my wallet.

I had dropped my wallet the night before when getting home.

Thankfully, my wallet seemed to be untouched, with nothing missing.

I could’ve sworn I had brought it in. Then again, I do remember not even noticing my wallet was missing.

I wasn’t new to this type of situation happening. Unfortunately, losing my wallet like this was a new achievement for me.

More situations like this began to pop up frequently. It was as if I had lost all sense of caring for my own personal belongings. The more responsibilities that I took on from work and socially seemed to enhance this pattern of behavior.

I began setting alarms on my phone to remind me to check for my wallet. The alarms worked on occasion, but I would forget the second I would shut it off.

I was furious with myself! Why was I so lazy that I couldn’t even remember to check that I have my wallet with me!

I kept this mindset for a while and tried my hardest to break away from it. I wasn’t lazy, but my actions didn’t show that.

I really wanted to be a certain way: clean, organized, and consistent.

Most of the people around me didn’t need to think about these everyday things. But I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the demands of life. I felt so lost and ashamed. What was wrong with me?

I carried on with this mantra for quite a while. I decided it was best that I try to rid myself of my bad habits.

After years of trying, I learned that these ‘bad habits’ were just a part of my personality. I was doomed to forever be the disorganized messed that I was.

I dreamed of Pinterest-style organization and clean countertops — and no dishes overflowing out of the sink! I learned that fast; this is a goal that is hard to obtain.

But I would settle for less than perfect and obviously go for something I could manage. Unfortunately, I failed time and time again.

I had enough and decided to seek help. I sought out a clinician that I felt comfortable with and got an appointment to review possible ADHD.

What does ADHD look like?

ADHD is a developmental disorder categorized into three separate parts: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Someone who is diagnosed with ADHD will show various symptoms throughout each category, fluctuating.

According to the DSM-V Revised, ADHD is a developmental disorder that affects one’s executive functioning. Executive functioning is the part of our brain that helps us stay organized; it’s like our little assistant throughout the day.

ADHD is not a matter of procrastination or laziness but a missing key in our brain to help us achieve our goals.

All goals, no matter how big or small, take a specific plan to execute.

Following through with achieving goals is the issue, those with ADHD struggle along the way.

With ADHD, and updated DSM-V Revised criteria categorize patients with either inattentive presentation, hyperactive presentation, or combined presentation (both inattentive and hyperactive).

Inattention

Inattention is a lack of attention in tasks and everyday life. This can disrupt the quality of life when you have to refocus on what you’re constantly doing.

I am certainly inattentive, and I always have been. I often find myself struggling to get back on task. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had attention issues, but I was mostly written off as ‘distracted.’

Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is defined as having more energy than the average person. Hyperactive behavior can manifest in many ways and can look different for many people. I always saw my hyperactivity as taking on too many projects. But, I must admit that I am that person who is always shaking their leg or moving around.

I like being busy and having something to do, but it leaves me with a lot of stress. If I have missed deadlines, and I overall struggle to get through the day.

Impulsivity

Impulsivity comes down to having a lack of control over one’s actions. Just like hyperactivity, impulsivity can come in many different forms.

Impulsivity can be seen in issues with overeating and other potentially harmful behavior. Impulsive behavior can also be seen through risky behavior or getting into unsafe situations; this stems from a lack of awareness of what consequences might occur.

Forgetfulness is inconvenient — but it can be harmful

By forgetfulness, I don’t mean forgetting to take your allergy pill on occasion.

The most prominent issue my ADHD causes me is forgetfulness. I have to write everything down, or else I will forget. I see so many different tasks, and they all seem so important to me that I can’t make any progress.

Forgetfulness can have a real impact.

For example, you want to send your cousin a birthday card — that’s pretty simple.

First, let’s break down the steps to send your cousin that birthday card.

You’ll need to go to the store to find a card to send them; then, you will have to purchase it, write a little note inside, and mail it off. Simple as pie.

Except for the person with ADHD who will struggle along the way. Maybe while you were at the store, you got distracted with a clothing sale or the detergent you meant to buy, and while you’re here, you might as well buy the pasta sauce for next week’s dinner.

Those with ADHD start with good intentions but get lost along the way.

Forgetfulness can manifest in more harmful ways. Forgetfulness can lead to missing important bills or deadlines or losing opportunities. Forgetting to lock your front door regularly poses a serious safety risk, and forgetting to turn off your stove is another one, too.

Small occurrences of forgetfulness are normal, but repeated forgetfulness that deals with more important matters may cause issues.

Much like with many diagnoses, there typically needs to be evidence of behavior occurring over a period of time. A short instance of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, with any combination of, is not a sure-fire ADHD diagnosis.

I exhibited signs for many years that were marked as laziness. I felt like I was trying the best that I could, yet I was still falling short.

ADHD can often be overlooked in adolescence by the child adapting and managing their symptoms; the real struggle isn’t seen until adult responsibilities arise.

Those with ADHD are most likely to experience comorbidities with other mental health disorders. Comorbidities are disorders that a typically seen alongside other diagnoses.

For ADHD, the comorbidity for anxiety and depression is higher, adding to issues you may already be experiencing.

ADHD is a real disorder that affects a lot of people. If you notice any similarities and question if you have ADHD, call your doctor — it’s worth a shot.

ADHD is not a curse that scars your ability to function properly. Some people have ADHD that do not need medication — while many do not. I am still a perfectly functioning person; I need to work a little harder to stay functioning — and that’s okay!

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak