Anxiety and ADHD: What’s Fueling What?

by | Jan 13, 2022 | ADHD Symptom Control | 0 comments

ADHD and anxiety

So if you’ve been keeping track, we are over 675 days into this pandemic (give or take a week as we may have lost count at one point). 

And if there is one prevailing feeling that everyone has experienced during these almost two years, it’s anxiety.

Anxiety over getting sick. Over changes with work and finances. Over homeschooling, quarantining, adjusting once again to the ‘new normal.’ Over understanding the CDC guidelines, variants, and vaccinations and what’s best for you and your loved ones. 

But if you have ADHD, anxiety is most likely an old friend so this feeling is nothing new. We’ve been feeling like things have been out of control our whole lives.

Those of us with ADHD often end up anxious about getting things done, meeting people’s expectations, succeeding at work because we’ve failed or let people down in the past. We know what happens: shame, disappointment, conflict, existential dread. A terrible cycle.

So while anxiety and ADHD often go hand in hand, what’s important…what we need to distinguish is what is anxiety on its own and what is ADHD-fueled anxiety. 

That matters when it comes to treatment and strategies. 

Let’s Talk About Anxiety and ADHD

What does anxiety feel like? Well, it sort of feels like ADHD!

Restlessness, fidgeting, concentration problems, chronic worry, sleep problems, nervousness, persistent fear, stomachaches, nausea, dizziness, headaches, muscle tension.

So how do you know what is what?

To put it simply…

If you’re anxious about things related to your ADHD challenges – like productivity, organizing, deadlines, etc. and the worry goes away when you’ve completed the task, then it’s most likely ADHD-fueled anxiety. 

If you’re anxious about everything – even things unrelated to your ADHD, then it sounds like anxiety-fueled anxiety and could very likely be Generalized Anxiety disorder. (NOTE: This is NOT a way to diagnose. Talk to your prescriber or PCP if this sounds familiar as you’ll want to consider specific medication and treatment focused on your type of anxiety.)

Life-Long Help for ADHD-Fueled Anxiety

Let’s talk about strategies to help with your ADHD-fueled anxiety so you can reduce this overwhelming emotion. The number one, most important, absolutely essential thing you need to do is – treat your ADHD! 

Here’s how:

1. Get your brain to help you – just as you want to get your brain in shape to manage your ADHD symptoms, you want to make extra sure that it’s working so you can push through the other emotions. 

You’ll want to focus on:

  • Medication – treat your ADHD and make sure you have the right ADHD stimulant medication at the right dose so it’s not increasing your anxiety 
  • Exercise – in some people, cardio has shown to be as effective for anxiety as anti-anxiety meds
  • Gut care – there is a connection between your gut health and mental health; make sure you’re keeping your gut healthy.
  • Get adequate sleep – those zzz’s can help you manage your emotions and help you be at your best
  • Eat healthy and regularly – fuel your brain with what you need so you can help your brain help you

2. Build your personal systems – focus on what causes the most anxiety and outline strategies to offset those situations. Is it being late? Missing deadlines? Losing stuff? Then learn ways to manage those things!

3. Get realistic – people with ADHD can be optimistic about time, activities, ability. Get realistic about when you’re at your best, the boundaries you need to set, and what you need to do so your brain is working to its potential.

Now those are long-term treatments, and there are some amazing on-the-spot treatments that can help when you’re in the moment and fraught with all those overwhelming symptoms listed above. 

To learn about them, tune in to Episode #47 of the Kick Some ADHD podcast: Kick Your ADHD-Inflamed Anxiety where you can learn more about ADHD and anxiety and other tips to help you manage your everyday emotions AND those erupting from COVID, Omicron and whatever comes next!

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