Is ADHD Correlated to Anxiety?


If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, you might notice an overlap of common symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsiveness, irritability, and so on. As it turns out, people with ADHD are more prone to experience symptoms that coexist with other psychiatric disorders. According to some research, over 60 percent of people with ADHD have a comorbid condition such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or another psychiatric disorder; and a shocking 50 percent of American adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. 


With that in mind, it’s important for people with ADHD to understand and recognize the signs of a potential comorbid condition. Anxiety is incredibly common, and the correct diagnosis is critical in getting specialized treatment that may help you better manage and enjoy your life.


Why ADHD & Anxiety Might be Related


Anyone diagnosed with ADHD knows that it can cause emotional turmoil—heightening the normal stress of day-to-day life if left untreated. Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School claimed that people with ADHD tend to be more sensitive, which can leave them “vulnerable to feeling things more deeply and being more affected by situations and emotions.” In other words, those with ADHD can be more prone to feeling overwhelmed in stressful situations, which can increase their chances of developing anxiety-related disorders. 


That being said, while both ADHD and anxiety can occur together, that doesn’t mean that the two disorders are interchangeable. Sometimes, anxiety disorders can arise as a result of living with ADHD over time, sometimes a person with ADHD may have always had both anxiety and ADHD, but just didn’t know the signs and symptoms.


Could genetics affect ADHD and anxiety?


ADHD is one of the most pervasive mental disorders among children, and in many cases, tends to persist into adult life. According to research, up to 6.4 million American children between the ages of 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD with symptoms first emerging between the ages of 3-6 years old, and the average age of diagnosis at 7 years old. 


This fact has sparked researchers to wonder if genetics could play a role in a child developing ADHD. According to genetic research, ADHD tends to run in families. It was found that if a parent has ADHD, a child is at a 57% risk for also developing ADHD. In addition, there is a 41% chance that if a child has an older sibling with ADHD, they too will be diagnosed with ADHD. Similar to ADHD, anxiety has also been found to have a genetic risk of 30%.  


While it is impossible to name one single cause for the link between ADHD and anxiety disorders, genetics could be a culprit to consider. If a few of your family members are diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, or both– you may also have a higher likelihood of developing a comorbidity.  


Signs and symptoms of co-existing anxiety and ADHD


Because many of the symptoms of anxiety and ADHD are similar, it can sometimes be a challenge to recognize which signs to look for that are primarily associated with anxiety as opposed to ADHD. Here are some signs and symptoms that may point to ADHD and anxiety comorbidity: 


  • Persistent social anxiety
  • Nervous fidgeting 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Trouble completing tasks 


On the other hand, here are some frequent anxiety signs to look out for: 


  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep 
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Irrational fears
  • Irritable or argumentative 
  • Withdrawing from friends and family


Receive the Proper ADHD Evaluations and Tests


If you notice yourself identifying with any of the signs of ADHD or anxiety, it’s a good idea to meet with a mental health professional that may be able to help you get a proper diagnosis. With an accurate, professional diagnosis, you’ll be able to find a more specific and personalized treatment plan to help you manage and thrive even with one of these mental health concerns. 


If you identify with any of the signs or symptoms related to a comorbid relationship between ADHD and anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Don’t neglect mentioning one in favor of another, or it might be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. If you’re interested in speaking with a mental health profession that has years of experience helping patients, consider scheduling a 45 minute initial appointment with the ADHD Wellness Center.

While we specialize in ADHD, we’re also trained in helping people identify and work through a variety of mental health concerns so that they can begin the journey towards the kind of life they want to lead.