What is the difference between Anxiety and ADHD?

anxiety panic attack fear treatment help psychotherapy psychiatry Dr Jonathan Haverkampf

It is important to understand that the different forms of anxiety and ADHD are completely separate diagnoses. However, it is not seldom that one experiences symptoms of both. In some cases, they can occur together by chance, but often one influences the other. For example, if ADHD leads to a more stressful life in work or relationships, anxiety may increase, while heightened anxiety can lead to an even further deterioration of attention and impulse control in ADHD.

HealthLine has published a brief chart that may be illustrative:

ADHD symptomsAnxiety symptoms
difficulty concentrating or paying attention
trouble completing tasks
forgetfulness
inability to relax or feelings of restlessness
difficulty listening to and following instructions
inability to focus for long periods of time
chronic feelings of worry or nervousness
fear without an obvious cause
irritability
trouble sleeping or insomnia
headaches and stomachaches
fear of trying new things
see HealthLine – Relationship Between ADHD and Anxiety

It is always important that a healthcare professional makes the diagnosis, but as you can see, there are some symptoms that occur in one condition but not in the other.

Treatment of Anxiety and ADHD

Treatment for anxiety and ADHD is quite different, both on the psychological and on the medication side. ADHD medication can even increase certain types of anxiety. However, many people suffering from a combination of anxiety and ADHD are helped by mental health interventions. Particularly in milder cases of anxiety and ADHD, psychotherapy and counselling alone may be sufficient. For example, reducing stress in life, whether in work or in relationships, can improve both anxiety and ADHD.

Stressors can be external or internal. Being in work or in a relationship that goes against one’s fundamental needs, values, and aspirations, can lead to stress. Maladative strategies in dealing with tasks or other people can also lead higher stress level. Psychotherapy and councelling can be helpful in understanding the underlying dynamics that maintain the heightened stress and anxiety levels and finding solutions to resolve them.

The WHO’s diagnostic manual ICD-10 describes anxiety disorders and ADHD as follows:

F40 Phobic anxiety disorders

A group of disorders in which anxiety is evoked only, or predominantly, in certain well-defined situations that are not currently dangerous. As a result these situations are characteristically avoided or endured with dread. The patient’s concern may be focused on individual symptoms like palpitations or feeling faint and is often associated with secondary fears of dying, losing control, or going mad. Contemplating entry to the phobic situation usually generates anticipatory anxiety. Phobic anxiety and depression often coexist. Whether two diagnoses, phobic anxiety and depressive episode, are needed, or only one, is determined by the time course of the two conditions and by therapeutic considerations at the time of consultation.

F41 Other anxiety disorders

Disorders in which manifestation of anxiety is the major symptom and is not restricted to any particular environmental situation. Depressive and obsessional symptoms, and even some elements of phobic anxiety, may also be present, provided that they are clearly secondary or less severe.

F40.1 Social phobias

Fear of scrutiny by other people leading to avoidance of social situations. More pervasive social phobias are usually associated with low self-esteem and fear of criticism. They may present as a complaint of blushing, hand tremor, nausea, or urgency of micturition, the patient sometimes being convinced that one of these secondary manifestations of their anxiety is the primary problem. Symptoms may progress to panic attacks.

If you want to find more information on the diagnostic criteria of ADHD, you can do so here: CDC – Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD

Other articles on this site on anxiety which you might find helpful include:

Anxiety

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Museums on prescription: Brussels tests cultural visits to treat anxiety

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Problems Persist for Kids Exposed to Cannabis in the Womb

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Exercise and Social Anxiety – does it help?

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Social Anxiety

Can psychotherapy help against anxiety?

https://youtu.be/dpPszrF4Z1o (c) 2022 Christian Jonathan Haverkampf

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where patients either have repeated intrusive thoughts, perform compulsive behaviours (rituals), or both. The attempt to suppress these thoughts or behaviours leads to heightened anxiety and tension. While patients notice that the thoughts or behaviours do not make sense, they often find it impossible to stop them. ...

How to Fit In

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Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder (5)

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Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder (5)

Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D. Social anxiety disorder can significantly reduce an individual’s choices in life and the quality of life overall. Since communication is the process by which humans fulfil their needs, values and aspirations, its effectiveness is important for satisfaction, contentment and happiness in life. It is the main autoregulatory instruments, ...

Benzodiazepines and Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder

Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D. Social anxiety disorder can significantly reduce an individual’s choices in life and the quality of life overall. Since communication is the process by which humans fulfil their needs, values and aspirations, its effectiveness is important for satisfaction, contentment and happiness in life. It is the main autoregulatory instruments, ...

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Dr Christian Jonathan Haverkampf M.D. This article provides a brief overview of social anxiety and its treatment. There are several psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment options. Often, a combination of the two leads to superior results. Special emphasis is given to a communication-oriented approach. Since communication is the mechanism which is impaired, communication is also the ...

Haverkampf CJ Treatment-Resistant Social Anxiety J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication 2015 Dec 31 4(4) 117-127

Panic Attacks

Therapy for Panic Attacks

A combination of psychotherapy and medication has good empirical support for its effectiveness in the therapy of panic attacks. In more severe cases of panic attacks, when it is no longer possible to leave the house, medication may be needed to make psychotherapy possible. Among the various psychotherapeutic approaches, CBT targets maladaptive thought processes and beliefs. ...

Benzodiazepines and Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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Communication-Focused Therapy® (CFT) for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder

Therapy of Social Anxiety Disorder Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D. Social anxiety disorder can significantly reduce an individual’s choices in life and the quality of life overall. Since communication is the process by which humans fulfil their needs, values and aspirations, its effectiveness is important for satisfaction, contentment and happiness in life. It is the main autoregulatory instruments, ...

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Dr Christian Jonathan Haverkampf M.D. This article provides a brief overview of social anxiety and its treatment. There are several psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment options. Often, a combination of the two leads to superior results. Special emphasis is given to a communication-oriented approach. Since communication is the mechanism which is impaired, communication is also the ...

Burnout

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Haverkampf CJ Treatment-Resistant Panic Attacks J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication 2016 Jun 30 5(2) 45-68

Escitalopram in the Treatment of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks and Medication (3)

Abstract – Panic attacks can interfere greatly with a patient’s social, professional and personal life. The first-line treatment is usually a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Medication broadly addresses two time horizons. In the short-run, benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine-like drugs reduces anxiety within twenty minutes to an hour, which is too long to treat an acute ...

Psychotherapeutic Technique: A Brief Overview

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Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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