The Relationship Between ADHD And Anxiety

Jeannette | Posted on June 28, 2022 
adhd and anxiety

If you suspect your child may suffer from ADHD and anxiety, it’s good to know the facts about the two conditions and learn more about their treatment options.

People with an anxiety disorder, on top of ADHD, worry about various things, and they may have difficulty controlling their nerves. These issues can interfere with everyday activities, like attending school, working, and socializing.

The anxiety disorder may have recently surfaced or been a family trait. While the exact cause is unknown, treatment is essential for children with ADHD and their parents. These issues are best addressed together, as they are often accompanied by one another.

In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety, contributing factors, and treatment options.

ADHD and Anxiety Contributing Factors

The common causes of ADHD and anxiety are not entirely clear. But experts say they may include environmental toxins, genetics, brain injury, premature delivery, and even alcohol or tobacco abuse during pregnancy.

In addition to ADHD, some people struggle with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, treatment is available for many of these conditions. Some effective treatments are discussed later in this article.


One of the first steps toward understanding avoidance as a contributing factor to ADHD and other types of anxiety is to understand how it occurs. For many children with ADHD, avoidance may manifest itself in a variety of ways.

Social avoidance is a common reaction to unfamiliar people, such as being uncomfortable with strangers. For some children, however, social avoidance may be a symptom of anxiety or ADHD rather than a core characteristic.

Previous studies have indicated that social avoidance predicts the severity of ADHD and anxiety symptoms. While social avoidance may not be a direct cause of these conditions, it may be a salient marker. For example, a child with autism is less likely to show symptoms of anxiety or ADHD than a child with the same disorder. If social avoidance is an underlying symptom of both types of disorders, this ailment likely has some impact on the symptoms of these conditions.

Adhd Specialist


There’s some evidence that a family’s genes could contribute to ADHD and anxiety. Researchers from Cardiff University have identified twelve genomic regions that differ among people with ADHD and those without. According to Dr. Joanna Martin, one of the study’s authors, many of these regions are located near genes known to have biological relationships with ADHD. This could have a profound effect on the treatment of ADHD and anxiety.

Other genetic risks may include gene variants that commonly affect ADHD and anxiety or chance events and environmental factors. These risks may interact with the inherited risk of ADHD. For example, common gene variants that affect multiple neurodevelopmental and psychiatric traits may interact with the 3′ UTR VNTR gene. Despite this, the association with these factors has not been replicated widely in studies.

Environmental Toxins

The incidence of attention deficit disorders and autism spectrum disorders has steadily increased over the last decade, and experts wonder if modern chemicals may be the cause. Studies published in respected medical journals have revealed that environmental toxins may be responsible. One study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that organophosphate insecticide residues were found in children’s urine. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the cord blood of infants whose mothers lived near contaminated harbors.

Although environmental toxins have been associated with ADHD, they are not known to be a direct cause and must be studied more rigorously. Although many of the associations observed in the literature do not exclude other factors, these associations may represent the result of ‘third-party’ variables, such as the child and parents’ psychopathologies. These associations may also result from a randomly distributed ‘third-party’ variable, in which the child’s genes are more or less shaped by their environment.


Anxiety is the opposite of concentration, which makes ADHDers nervous before starting a task. Over-preparation can occur for simple tasks like taking medication or food with them. Even if it’s just getting dressed in the morning, they’ll have a plan B in case the weather turns.

Overprotective Parenting

Overprotective parenting is a behavior wherein parents become overly sensitive to their children’s needs. This heightened sensitivity to their child’s safety can have negative effects.

Children can develop a hypersensitivity to danger and other threats by observing overly protective adults. Children learn this from their parents and internalize it at an early age, usually before the child reaches age eight. Consequently, parents should be aware of their overprotective behaviors and work on them.

The study investigated differences in the symptoms of ADHD vs. anxiety in children from two groups: ADHD and parents with anxiety. A community sample of children was recruited from elementary and high schools in Amsterdam and matched with ADHD and anxiety samples from the study participants. The study included 16 families with paternal dysfunction within the family unit. The parents reported their child’s ADHD symptoms with a questionnaire that measured parental overprotectiveness.

Brain Differences

Interestingly, the researchers found that brain regions involved in attention and anxiety disorders had different WM properties. ADHD and anxiety have high r-scores on the MMSE, and a higher proportion of the right sulcus (or amygdala) was associated with increased dFC in the right PFC. The researchers also noted a correlation between SFA dFC and IS (error) in the two groups. The differences between these regions were found to be persistent throughout adulthood.

The findings suggest that there are widespread changes in brain structure associated with a diagnosis of ADHD. However, many adults with this condition report improvement in their symptoms over time. These changes may explain the reduced correlation between ADHD symptoms and brain structure during the early adolescent years, possibly due to increased coping skills and brain maturation. There are few studies examining the anatomical correlates of anxiety vs. ADHD.

Common Symptoms

Anxiety and ADHD often coexist, but the symptoms are often confused. Anxiety can be triggered by a wide variety of external events, including arguments with friends, financial worries, stress at work, or sensory processing problems.

Children with ADHD also struggle with poor impulse control and work habits, as well as a reduction in their attention span. In addition to these symptoms, children with ADHD often struggle with poor organization and a lack of time management.

The symptoms of anxiety and ADHD overlap in many cases, and clinicians must determine if the impairments are secondary to the disorder or the ADHD. The presence of chronic anxiety in people with ADHD can impair a person’s daily functioning, self-esteem, and happiness. Two national surveys have revealed that 30% of children and 40% of adults have another coexisting condition besides ADHD.

Those with both conditions often suffer from chronic stress and anxiety, making treatment more challenging. In addition, symptoms of anxiety may worsen the symptoms of ADHD, causing a person to withdraw from life and feel more depressed and unhappier.

Treatment Options

ADHD and anxiety are two conditions that go hand in hand. Anxiety is often the result of poor attention in class. Children who are unable to focus in class may miss important information or get into trouble.

Treatment options for ADHD and anxiety help kids learn to focus and hear reassurance from adults. These therapies are recommended by ADHD and anxiety specialists. These treatments are also considered the most effective. If you suspect your child may have both disorders, it’s best to see a doctor.

Symptoms of both disorders can exacerbate each other. If both conditions coexist, treating the anxiety may improve symptoms of ADHD while relieving anxiety can help ADHD. In addition, treatment may help reduce the severity of symptoms in both conditions.

Many adults only get treatment for these symptoms much later in life. However, treating both conditions simultaneously can help reduce anxiety. Treatment for ADHD is usually a combination of therapy. It is important to get a proper diagnosis of ADHD vs. anxiety.

When combined with a mood disorder, a child or young adult can experience greater health risks, a larger disease burden, and a more severe illness course. Although the two conditions of ADHD and anxiety often coexist, they may be treated differently.

Treatment of ADHD and anxiety contributing factors differ based on the individual. For example, pharmacotherapy for ADHD requires the use of stimulants that are more readily available to college students and university students. However, individuals taking psychostimulants should be aware of the risks of diverting these medications.

See Also: ADHD and Autism

The Bottom Line

The connection between the conditions of ADHD and anxiety is quite substantial to overlook. Both conditions cause restlessness, distraction, excessive worry, stress, and obsessions.

Anxiety disorders are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and left untreated. Anxiety disorders (social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive, etc.) are more common in individuals with ADHD than in the general population. However, childhood anxiety disorders are considered to be the second most common condition coinciding with ADHD.

The best course of action to treat the symptoms of ADHD and anxiety is to work with a qualified integrative medicine provider. Medication, psychotherapy, family therapy, and behavioral therapy can help combat and manage these symptoms.

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