Anxiety disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD have overlapping components. Based on research, about 25% of children who are diagnosed with ADHD are also suffering from Anxiety Disorder. It is also noted that kids with Anxiety Disorder may manifest ADHD symptoms. In fact, children who experience Separation Anxiety or Overanxious Disorder are highly likely to also suffer from ADHD.
This includes the following Anxiety Disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Phobia like Social Anxiety
Anxiety Disorders have internalized symptoms that exist in a child’s mind, which is why it is more difficult to recognize compared to Disruptive Behavior Disorders. The latter have symptoms showing outward behavior, including pushing people or verbal outbursts. Only when the symptoms of Anxiety Disorders are reflected in the child’s behaviors are they noticeable to parents, pediatricians, and teachers. “They must be unable to function as well as others—and in fact, are often well below normal—in any of those domains.” Says leading ADHD expert Russell Barkley, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics
Some of these behaviors include:
- Refusal to Attend Classes
- Restlessness and Loss of Sleep
- Weight Loss
Once you suspect the presence of anxiety signs on top of your child’s ADHD, it is necessary to get the help of the child’s pediatrician or a youth psychologist.
What to Look For
Some symptoms of Anxiety Disorders that can be mistaken as symptoms of ADHD include poor concentration and restlessness, which is why it can be difficult to take note of. The difference though is that symptoms of Anxiety Disorder include restless response to boredom and lack of focus in a general sense. “Often, it’s kind of like living in a fog… The way it’s been described to me is like everything almost looks blurry physically,” said Dr. Doron Almagor, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist.
The anxiety is more pronounced and children suffering from the disorder seem:
- Experiencing sleeplessness
- Suffering from Brief Panic Attacks
- Feelings of Intense fear
- Pounding ears
- Breathing difficulties
When it comes to their school performance, children with Anxiety Disorder have more problems and social difficulties than children with ADHD. While they may be less disruptive, they are considered more inefficient and distracted compared to ADHD children.
In order to find out if your child is suffering from an Anxiety Disorder, consider the following questions:
- Is your child excessively anxious or worried about certain school situations or activities that seem overly exaggerated and unrealistic?
- Is your child having difficulty controlling his/her worries?
- Is your child’s anxiety developing to fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, and restlessness?
- Is your child’s anxiety influencing his/her social and academic functions?
- Is your child’s anxiety occurring more and for a significant continued duration?
If the answer is yes, then, you might want to consult a specialist for your child’s condition. You can search the net for therapist near me if you want someone near your home so that your child’s anxiety issues and ADHD concerns are addressed as soon as possible.
Treatment for People with Anxiety Disorders and ADHD
When it comes to treating ADHD and Anxiety Disorder, combining several approaches to cater to the child’s particular situation is the best move to make. Some of the most basic things to do include are:
- Educating the family and child on the details of the condition
- Encouraging input from the school personnel
Initiate some behavioral therapies, including the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral Techniques
- Traditional Psychotherapy
- Family Therapy
- Medication Management (for extreme cases only)
When it comes to a child suffering from both ADHD and Anxiety Disorder in an uncontrollable manner, most of the obstructed functions are caused by the ADHD symptoms. The best approach is a medical one and the child’s pediatrician can choose to go for stimulants first and simply adjust the dosage for maximal effect as side effects are monitored. “Because children and adults with ADHD struggle with focusing, organizing tasks, and feeling restless, they might experience sadness, guilt, irritability, low self-confidence and helplessness. In some cases, these symptoms can signal depression.” Kathleen Smith, PhD, LPC explains.