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ADHD vs Anxiety in Adults: How to Tell the Difference

Updated: May 3


Man with anxiety

ADHD and anxiety are two different disorders, but quite often the symptoms can seem the same. In fact, they often can co-exist and the disorders can exacerbate each other. One of the main differences between ADHD and anxiety is that ADHD symptoms typically begin in childhood, whereas anxiety typically crops up when you’re a teenager or adult. To learn whether you have ADHD or anxiety or both, schedule a consultation with a medical professional today.


ADHD - Overview & Symptoms


Symptoms of ADHD include trouble concentrating and finishing tasks, impulsivity, lack of time management skills, restlessness, and mood swings. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Many adults with ADHD aren’t even aware that they have it. Instead, they know that everyday tasks can seem difficult, but they aren’t sure why.


Anxiety vs ADHD


The symptoms of ADHD are slightly different from those of anxiety. ADHD symptoms primarily involve issues with focus and concentration. Anxiety symptoms, on the other hand, involve issues with nervousness and fear.


Symptoms of Anxiety


Nervousness

People with an anxiety disorder often experience severe feelings of nervousness or worry. These feelings can come on frequently and without an obvious stressor. Many physical sensations can accompany nervousness, including a dry mouth, sweaty palms, and dizziness, as well as feelings of self doubt.


Feelings of Dread

Anxiety disorders can cause intense feelings of dread, or fearing the worst, feeling on edge, or a general sense of panic. Dread can creep into almost every aspect of day-to-day life, causing a general sense of unease. This sort of anxiety is less intense than a panic attack, but longer-lasting, making normal life difficult and relaxation impossible.


Overwhelming Worry

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about any number of different things. There’s a tendency to anticipate disaster as well as being overly concerned about money, health, family, work, and other issues.


Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms. These can range from sweaty hands or shaky legs to an elevated heart rate or nausea and digestive trouble. Specific types of anxiety may have additional physical symptoms, such as chest pain, numbness or tingling sensations, dizziness, overheating, or chills.


Symptoms Anxiety & ADHD Have in Common


Irritability

Irritability, ADHD, and anxiety all go hand in hand. A prime example of irritability is when changes in your environment make you feel angry. For patients with ADHD and anxiety, it’s often hard to deal with expecting things to go one way, and then finding out that they don’t. This inability to “roll with things” often leads to quick anger.


Trouble Sleeping

Adults with ADHD and/or anxiety frequently suffer from sleeping problems. ADHD sufferers tend to have trouble winding their minds down when it’s time for sleep, whereas those with anxiety wrestle with excess worry and fear, both of which make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, creating a negative cycle where sleep decreases while anxiety increases.


Restlessness

Both ADHD and anxiety can cause restlessness. Whereas this can manifest in children as hyperactivity, in adults it appears differently. Rather than bouncing off the walls, adults with ADHD and anxiety find themselves more likely to be restless or find that they cannot relax. Others may describe you as on edge, or tense.


Difficulty Concentrating

Someone with an anxiety disorder will find it difficult to concentrate during certain situations that cause them to feel anxious. However, someone with ADHD will find it difficult to concentrate most or all of the time.


Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD and anxiety, but often the least discussed. All of the above symptoms of restlessness and troubled sleep lead to an inevitable crash, and with that comes fatigue.


ADHD & Anxiety: Comorbidity


“Comorbidity” is simply two conditions that exist together. Not only is there a lot of crossover and similarity between ADHD and Anxiety - the two conditions often exist side by side. Roughly half of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder.


Getting Diagnosed with ADHD vs Anxiety


Overlapping symptoms of comorbid psychiatric conditions often complicate getting an accurate diagnosis. As always, consulting a professional is the best way to achieve a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Trust Klarity to Find the Right Provider for ADHD and Anxiety Diagnosis and Treatment


Whether you believe you have ADHD, anxiety, or possibly both, there has never been a better time to seek help. Regardless of whether you are looking for a diagnosis or online ADHD treatment, Klarity is here for you – you will get an appointment within 2 days, and your provider will create an individualized treatment plan to address your conditions. Schedule your 30-minute online visit with a medical professional and start taking the first steps towards a better tomorrow.