ADHD & Anxiety: The Connection

Girl with anxiety walking with people blurred all around representing the idea of ADHD or distractions

Difficulty concentrating, restlessness, irritability, and a general sense of unease are hallmark symptoms of anxiety, but did you know that these symptoms can also coexist with ADHD? 

According to the latest data, nearly 50 percent of adults in the US live with both ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder.  

At The Mind Spa, we believe in a whole-person approach. In this article, we will explore the interconnectedness between ADHD and anxiety and provide tools to help manage symptoms and enjoy an improved sense of well-being.  

What is ADHD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is “a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” 

The most common symptoms of ADHD present as difficulty maintaining a long attention span, impulsive thoughts and/or behaviors, and hyperactivity that can interfere with daily life.  

Understanding Anxiety

The American Psychological Association describes anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Generally, anxiety can look like excessive worry about the future and about scenarios that are outside of one’s control. This can extend to social relationships or one’s life situation. Generally, this leads to an overall feeling of unease and discomfort. In advanced cases, these feelings interfere with quality of life.      

What does Anxiety look like with ADHD?

Anxiety with ADHD can present itself as a generally distressing state that interplays between the two disorders. This can look like a struggle to function and concentrate at the task at hand while simultaneously worrying about failure to complete such a task. These coexisting symptoms can take a toll on the individual, resulting in exacerbated symptoms of stress, fatigue, and angst. In advanced cases, this may lead to inaction, low motivation, and poor self-esteem.

Shared Symptoms Between Anxiety and ADHD

  • Agitation and/or nervousness 
  • Low energy levels  
  • Difficulty maintaining focus 
  • Quick temperament  
  • Physical tension 
  • Sleep irregularities 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Flight or fight mode and more… 

What can be done to manage both ADHD and anxiety?

The first step to managing ADHD and anxiety is accepting and understanding that the coexistence of these two diagnoses presents a unique yet achievable challenge. While overlapping symptoms are understandably demanding, it is always advised to extend yourself grace and patience through this journey. Seeking the help of a mental health professional will ensure that you do not have to walk this path alone.  

With the help of a trusted psychologist, you can access tools to help you navigate interrelated symptoms with achievable techniques that can be applied on a moment-to-moment and day-by-day basis.  

Mindfulness for ADHD and Anxiety

Mindfulness and other grounding practices can be transformative for those experiencing ADHD and anxiety. Engaging in mindfulness exercises, like meditation or deep breathing, allows individuals to anchor themselves in the present moment. This can redirect scattered thoughts, provide a break from overwhelming worries, and reduce the impulsivity commonly seen in ADHD. Over time, consistent mindfulness practices can rewire the brain to respond more calmly to stressors and promote increased focus. 

“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”  

Christian Larson

For more on anxiety, visit the following Mind Spa Resources: 

CBT Therapy – A Mindful Approach to Anxiety 

Managing Holiday Season Anxiety