It is estimated that 50% of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also suffer from an anxiety disorder. While there is a significant overlap between the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety, these two conditions are distinct and may require different treatment approaches.
If you are diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, you must know that both conditions can work together to make coping more difficult. Having ADHD and being unable to complete tasks or conduct successful relationships can heighten your anxiety, and having anxiety can make your ADHD symptoms even harder to control.
In this post, we’ll talk about several treatment options for people with comorbid anxiety and ADHD.
Living with anxiety and ADHD is already hard enough. Finding a trusted healthcare provider and a treatment plan that covers your ADHD and anxiety disorder shouldn’t add to your stress. Klarity makes online ADHD treatment and online anxiety treatment easy.
Take our free, 2-minute evaluation, and we’ll connect you with an anxiety and ADHD-trained medical provider who can diagnose and prescribe treatment online in 48 hours or less. No more waiting weeks to be seen and weeks longer for follow-ups.
How to Treat ADHD and Anxiety Symptoms
Certain ADHD drugs can help treat comorbid anxiety, while others, such as stimulants, may exacerbate anxiety symptoms. The good news is there are several ADHD medications and therapies available to treat ADHD that will also work to alleviate your anxiety symptoms.
Non-Stimulant ADHD Medications
ADHD medications fall into two general classes: stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulants, first-line medications for treating adult ADHD, are fast acting and highly effective. They work by increasing your brain’s production of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters, which are involved in mediating motivation, action, and cognition.
Non-stimulants, which are also effective in treating ADHD symptoms, have a slower rate of onset and work by keeping already activated receptors in your brain “turned on” or “fired up” for longer. While both classes of ADHD drugs are safe and effective, stimulants can increase anxiety symptoms, making non-stimulants a better option for adult ADHD patients with anxiety.
On Klarity, you can work with your medical provider to find the best treatment option for your particular mental health condition.
What Does Strattera Do?
Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication similar in structure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat depression and anxiety. Technically, it is an SNRI or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Strattera takes 1-4 weeks to take effect and is approved for use in children (6 years old and up), teens, and adults.
What Is Intuniv?
Intuniv is the extended-release formulation of a long-used blood pressure medication called guanfacine. Intuniv was approved as a non-stimulant ADHD medication in 2009 and is thought to work on brain receptors to improve memory, decrease distractibility and improve attention span.
What Is Kapvay?
Similarly to Intuniv, Kapvay is the extended-release form of medication—in this case, Clonidine—used for high blood pressure. Approved for treating ADHD in children and adults, Kapvay works on receptors in the central nervous system and is known as a centrally-acting alpha2-adrenergic agonist.
What Is Qelbree Used For?
Qelbree is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor used for treating depression and anxiety and has also been shown to be effective in treating ADHD. Currently, Qelbree is approved for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents between the ages of 6-17 and may soon be approved for the treatment of adult ADHD.
How to Use CBT for ADHD and Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), sometimes referred to as “talk therapy,” is a highly effective treatment, usually when used in conjunction with medication, for both ADHD and anxiety. CBT treatment focuses on finding practical, real-world solutions to the triggers and symptoms of ADHD and anxiety that a person is experiencing.
What Is CBT?
CBT is based on the understanding that thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors are all connected. When a person makes a positive change to any of these areas, they will experience positive changes in the other two. A licensed counselor can provide CBT in either group or individual sessions.
What Is CBT’s Impact on ADHD and Anxiety?
Studies have found that CBT can reduce ADHD symptoms and ease feelings of anxiety. Specifically, CBT improves executive functioning by reducing impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. When combined with ADHD medications, CBT was also found to be more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms than medication alone.
Klairity doesn’t offer psychotherapy treatments. However, your provider may suggest psychotherapy alongside prescription medications as a useful treatment.
Licensed providers on Klarity provide personalized mental health treatment. Find a provider that matches your needs and preferences.
What’s the Link Between ADHD and Anxiety?
While not yet definitively known, research suggests that there may be a genetic link between ADHD and anxiety. This could help explain why up to 50% of people with attention deficit hyperactive disorder are also diagnosed with anxiety disorders, but further research in this area is needed.
How to Treat ADHD and Anxiety in Adults
Managing ADHD and anxiety symptoms simultaneously in adults can be challenging, but there are effective treatment approaches that can help. Medication and therapy are the primary pillars of treatment for adults with ADHD and anxiety. ADHD medications, such as stimulants and non-stimulants, work by regulating neurotransmitters in the brain to improve attention, focus, and impulse control.
Additionally, therapy helps individuals identify and address negative thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and improve executive functioning. Working closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate medication and therapy combination can lead to better outcomes in managing both ADHD and anxiety.
In addition to medication and therapy, there are a wide variety of supplementary techniques and coping strategies that can further support individuals in managing their ADHD and anxiety symptoms. These techniques can be incorporated into daily routines to enhance overall well-being and improve symptom management.
Below is a detailed list of coping strategies you can try:
- Maintain healthy habits: Establishing a regular sleep schedule, eating a balanced diet, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, can contribute to overall well-being and help reduce symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety.
- Engage in regular exercise: Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. Regular exercise, whether it’s going for a walk, practicing yoga, or participating in a sport, can help alleviate symptoms, boost mood, and reduce anxiety. Exercise also helps release dopamine, which is beneficial for managing ADHD.
- Practice time management techniques: Developing effective time management skills can assist in reducing stress and enhancing productivity. Consider using tools such as planners, calendars, or digital apps to help organize your tasks and prioritize responsibilities.
- Implement stress reduction strategies: Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy, spending time in nature, listening to calming music, or practicing mindfulness techniques. Experiment with different strategies to discover what works best for you.
- Seek support: Building a support network of understanding family members, friends, or support groups can provide encouragement, understanding, and a safe space to share your experiences. Connecting with others who face similar challenges can be comforting and provide valuable insights.
- Explore relaxation techniques: Explore various relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or aromatherapy, to help alleviate anxiety symptoms and promote a sense of calmness.
- Practice self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care and nurture your mental well-being. This could include taking breaks when needed, engaging in hobbies or interests that bring you joy, practicing self-compassion, and setting boundaries to protect your energy and time.
Remember, you don’t have to try all of these techniques at once—choose one or two to blend into your routine at first to see if they help. By blending these strategies with therapy and medication, you can enhance your overall well-being and improve your ability to manage ADHD and anxiety symptoms effectively.
Do ADHD Meds Help With Anxiety?
ADHD medications primarily work by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a role in regulating attention, motivation, and mood. By increasing the availability of these neurotransmitters, stimulant medications can improve focus and reduce impulsivity in individuals with ADHD. However, the impact on anxiety can vary.
In some cases, stimulant medications used to treat ADHD—such as Vyvanse or Ritalin—can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, leading to increased feelings of restlessness or nervousness. However, other individuals may find that their anxiety symptoms improve when taking certain ADHD medications.
If you have ADHD and anxiety, it’s crucial to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate medication for managing both conditions effectively. Your healthcare provider will consider factors such as the severity of your ADHD symptoms, the specific type of anxiety you experience, and any potential interactions or side effects. In some cases, they may prescribe non-stimulant medications or consider a combination of medication and therapy to effectively address both ADHD and anxiety.
Regular follow-up appointments will allow for ongoing monitoring and adjustments to ensure the best outcomes for your mental health.
Effects of ADHD Stimulant Meds on Anxiety
ADHD stimulant medications are both effective and safe. However, as with all beneficial medicines, ADHD stimulant medications can have undesired side effects, including jitteriness, increased heart rate, nervousness, and trembling. These symptoms can resemble anxiety or exacerbate an existing underlying anxiety disorder.
Because of this, medical providers don’t prescribe certain ADHD medications that contain mixed amphetamine salts or other stimulant drug formulations to people who have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Instead, they opt for non-stimulant medications like selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Can ADHD Cause Anxiety?
Living with ADHD is stressful. Not completing your work, forgetting important appointments, or losing your keys can all be anxiety provoking. A patient may suffer from both ADHD and anxiety; sometimes, these two disorders may occur independently of one another, and in other cases, the patient’s ADHD is actually causing anxiety.
Although there are many overlaps between ADHD and anxiety, there are important differences. ADHD is mainly characterized by a lack of focus and excessive physical movement, whereas the hallmarks of an anxiety disorder are worry, fear, and nervousness.
A person suffering from anxiety may be unable to concentrate in any situation that provokes anxiety. A person with ADHD will find it difficult to concentrate almost all of the time.
What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
The type of anxiety a person has can affect how they experience symptoms of ADHD. The treatment plan you use for managing ADHD symptoms effectively might come down to the type of anxiety you have.
Five common types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A chronic condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday events and activities. People with GAD may experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, fatigue, and restlessness.
- Panic Disorder: A condition characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are intense episodes of fear that can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and sweating.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): A condition characterized by intense fear or anxiety in social situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people. People with SAD may avoid social situations that interfere with their daily lives.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): A condition characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions), as well as repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) that are performed in response to these obsessions. These behaviors can be time-consuming and interfere with daily life.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, negative changes in mood and cognition, and heightened arousal and reactivity.
How Klarity Treats Co-Occurring ADHD and Anxiety
The board-certified healthcare providers on Klarity are experienced in treating adult patients with co-occurring ADHD and anxiety. They can help you navigate these two common disorders and tailor a treatment plan that addresses your needs.
If you think you may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or have already been diagnosed with ADHD and are experiencing anxiety symptoms, we can help. Here’s how—
- Take our brief, online mental health assessment to see a provider in 48 hours or less.
- Have your virtual appointment with a medical provider on Klarity.
- Receive diagnosis and medication treatment
- Pick it up at a pharmacy of your choice.
Klarity makes online ADHD and anxiety treatment hassle-free and convenient.
- Carpenter, J. K., Leigh, M. A., Andrews, B. A., Witcraft, B. A., Power, M. B., Smits, A. J., & Hoffman, S., G. (2018). Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Depression and Anxiety, 35 (6), 502-514. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22728