Finding Help for Adult ADHD and Anxiety

Commonly diagnosed in children, ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can also develop in adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 4.4 percent of American adults struggle with ADHD disorder within any given year.

Adult ADHD and anxiety entails a whole other layer of symptoms that further complicates daily life. Once a person recognizes symptoms of adult ADHD and anxiety, it’s essential to get needed treatment help as this condition only gets worse over time. Fortunately, several established protocols exist for treating adult ADHD as well as for treating anxiety symptoms.

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Adult ADHD

mental health treatment for adults

Therapy and medication can help you manage the symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety.

Much like with ADHD in children, ADHD can manifest in different ways for adults. According to the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine, three categories of symptoms characterize ADHD disorders:

  • Inattention – poor listening skills, inability to follow directions, short attention span, problems concentrating, overlooks details
  • Impulsivity – talking over other people, reckless behaviors, socially inappropriate, addictive tendencies
  • Hyperactivity – ongoing need for excitement, bores easily, talkative, impractical risk-taking, racing thoughts, inability to stay still, excess multi-tasking, agitated, restless

For any one person, some symptoms may be more prominent than others. Not surprisingly, someone struggling with ADHD symptoms has a difficult time fulfilling work and family responsibilities.

With adult ADHD and anxiety, individuals battle symptoms of ADHD on top of anxiety symptoms. In effect, ADHD symptom severity worsens when anxiety is present.

Adult ADHD and Anxiety

ADHD’s Relationship with Anxiety

According to the University of Washington, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of adult ADHD sufferers also have some form of anxiety disorder. Disorders commonly associated with adult ADHD and anxiety include:

Over time, ADHD symptoms can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet his or her daily obligations. When ADHD goes untreated, constantly forgetting important tasks, being late for work or making impulsive decisions can create feelings of anxiety simply because of the negative consequences that result.

Adult ADHD and anxiety combined create a vicious cycle of symptoms where failings due to ADHD symptoms trigger feelings of anxiety, which only works to increase a person’s sense of feeling overwhelmed.

Anxiety’s Effects on Treatment

While ADHD can easily be treated and managed with the right treatment protocol, people dealing with adult ADHD and anxiety face more of a challenge when it comes to following treatment guidelines.

Anxiety’s effects can sometimes paralyze a person and essentially leave him or her stuck inside old ways of doing things.

With adult ADHD and anxiety, fears of failing can make it difficult for a person to follow through on treatment directives in terms of implementing new routines or habits. Under these conditions, the pressure to “reform” can increase a person’s agitation levels making the treatment process more difficult overall. For these reasons, treating adult ADHD and anxiety requires a coordinated effort in terms of treating both ADHD and anxiety symptoms simultaneously.

Adult ADHD and Anxiety Treatment Options

Treatment Approach

At the start of treatment, it’s essential to determine which disorder, ADHD or anxiety, acts as the primary condition. For example, if feelings of anxiety develop in response to the effects of ADHD in one’s life, ADHD is the primary condition. Likewise, if symptoms of ADHD develop in response to ongoing feelings of anxiety, anxiety acts as the primary condition.

Treatment providers conduct a series of tests and assessments to determine which condition causes the most distress for the patient. With adult ADHD and anxiety, treating the primary condition first offers the most effective treatment approach.

So someone with a primary diagnosis of ADHD should first receive treatment for ADHD before any form of anxiety treatment is administered. In effect, once the primary condition is treated, symptoms of the secondary condition may subside considerably.

Medication Treatment

As with most psychological disorders, neurotransmitter chemical imbalances in the brain account for the symptoms associated with adult ADHD and anxiety. Medication treatment helps to restore chemical balance in the brain.

ADHD medications include both stimulant and non-stimulant drugs, both of which come in prescription form. Stimulants increase dopamine and neurotransmitter chemical levels while preventing the brain from breaking down or recycling available neurotransmitter chemical supplies.

Prescription stimulants commonly used include:

  • Concerta
  • Adderall
  • Vyvanse
  • ProCentra
  • Dextrostat

Non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD include Strattera, which increases norepinephrine levels and tricyclic antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants vary in terms of their effects on neurotransmitters. These drugs include:

  • Wellbutrin
  • Imipramine
  • Desirpramine
  • Nortryptyline

The need for medication as an anxiety treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms experienced. With adult ADHD and anxiety, anxiety drugs commonly prescribed include:

  • Buspirone
  • Beta blockers
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs

Behavioral Therapy

Someone living with adult ADHD and anxiety symptoms develops ways of coping with his or her shortcomings. More oftentimes than not, a person’s way of coping only makes his or her situation worse.

The resulting problems that come with adult ADHD and anxiety also affect the way a person treats him or herself. Behavioral therapy helps in working through these underlying issues while at the same helping patients develop effective ways of coping with daily life situations.

In most cases, combining medication treatment with behavioral therapy offers the best course of treatment for adult ADHD and anxiety. Medication treatment alleviates much of the anxiety and stress experienced, which enables a person to better engage in the behavioral therapy process.

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Considerations

People affected by adult ADHD and anxiety go through great pains to manage the dysfunction in their lives, with many not even recognizing the condition for what it is. When left untreated, symptoms only grow more severe as brain chemical imbalances worsen.

Compared to other types of psychological disorder, ADHD is quite management with the right treatment. Once a person does seek help, it’s essential to provide treatment providers with as much information as possible as far as the types of symptoms and difficulties he or she experiences from day to day.

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