ADHD & Anxiety: What’s the Relationship?


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Picture this scenario: You’re stressed about an upcoming exam. When you finally sit down at your desk to study, it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate. You suddenly remember those sneakers you left in your online shopping cart, and because you’re already using your computer, you figure you’ll “check in on them.”

It’ll only take a minute, anyway, you tell yourself. One hour later, you have 13 tabs open, having gone from looking at sneakers to checking your email to remembering you need to pay your electricity bill to somehow landing on the Personal Life section of Robert DeNiro’s Wikipedia page.

The clock’s ticking, and you still haven’t cracked open a book, which makes you feel even more anxious. But you push those feelings away and promise yourself just five more minutes of doomscrolling…which turns into another hour. Panic ensues. Rinse and repeat. 

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s totally natural to have trouble focusing or issues completing tasks. But if this happens with more frequency or intensity, you might be wondering: Is this anxiety or ADHD? How can you tell the difference, and can you have both?

Many think of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as that condition that causes people to be easily distracted. And while it’s different from anxiety disorders, both share similar symptoms — which, understandably, can make things a little confusing when trying to figure out which condition you have. 

While only your healthcare provider can officially give you a diagnosis, it’s helpful to have your own understanding of the symptoms of anxiety and how they compare to the symptoms of ADHD. In this overview, we’ll dig into their differences and how you can seek treatment for either — or both.

ADHD vs. Anxiety in Adults

ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). It can be experienced as hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness or a combination of those symptoms. 

If you have ADHD, you might have trouble with things like paying attention, staying on task, being organized and controlling impulsive behaviors. Commonly diagnosed during childhood, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can last into adulthood. In 2020 alone, there were over 360 million global diagnoses of adult ADHD. 

Plenty of us have occasional moments with difficulty focusing (i.e., mundane tasks like tackling your work emails can feel like torture). But for people with ADHD, inattention and impulsivity can interfere with everyday life in more severe ways.

For instance, in a 2017 study involving 423 young adults who gambled more than five times in recent years, ADHD symptoms were found in 20.3 percent of participants. However, only 7.3 percent had ever been given a formal ADHD diagnosis. 

Now that you’re acquainted with ADHD, let’s switch gears and talk about anxiety.

Whether you’re interviewing for a job or starting a new relationship, it’s totally normal to experience levels of anxiety in everyday life. When you’re feeling anxious, you’re reacting to stress, which is associated with emotional or physical tensions, like relationship struggles or work pressure.

That said, some people experience symptoms of anxiety much more intensely. And like its cousin ADHD, untreated anxiety can take over aspects of your life, such as work, relationships and even activities you once enjoyed. If this sounds familiar, you could — along with over 19 percent of Americans — have an anxiety disorder. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines anxiety disorders as a group of mental health disorders that share common traits, like intense feelings of fear or worry, anxiousness, severe unease and panic.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to anxiety. In fact, there are many different kinds. Some of the most common types of anxiety include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as a constant feeling of worry and fear that may make it more difficult to engage in everyday tasks and activities. This disorder is different from everyday anxiety, which everyone occasionally experiences on some level.

  • Panic disorder. Having a panic disorder involves experiencing panic attacks, which come from sudden, intense feelings of fear and/or losing control. Shaking, sweating and shortness of breath are just a few of the symptoms you might feel. 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a person has gone through a dangerous or traumatizing experience, they might be diagnosed with PTSD. Wondering if you have anxiety or PTSD? Read our guide for insight.

  • Social anxiety disorder. People who have social anxiety disorder are fearful of being perceived negatively during social situations, be it in the workplace or at a party with friends.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is when a person has repetitive, recurring thoughts or behaviors they can’t control. This can look like anything from constant hand-washing to obsessively checking on things, like if the house is locked before leaving home.

(Related: Beta Blockers For Anxiety: Benefits & Risks)

The Relationship Between ADHD and Anxiety

It’s important to note that ADHD and anxiety can be comorbid, meaning the two disorders can exist simultaneously in one person. It also means diagnosing a person with ADHD can be tricky.

For instance, ADHD and anxiety can both cause stress, extreme fears, problems with memory and distractibility. They can further cause fatigue, insomnia and other sleep-related issues.

However, research suggests that if ADHD and its comorbidities — which commonly include mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and personality disorders — are identified and treated early enough, there’s potential to change the trajectory of psychiatric morbidity later in life. A 2016 survey revealed that 60 percent of children between 2 and 5 with ADHD have at least one other behavioral or mental health disorder. 

Symptoms of Anxiety vs. ADHD

Anxiety and ADHD can share physical and mental symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feelings of nervousness and restlessness

  • Difficulty sleeping

But there are also differences. Symptoms unique to anxiety can include: 

  • Feelings of physical weakness and/or tiredness

  • Stomachaches, cramps, diarrhea and/or constipation

  • Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Heart palpitations

  • Trouble controlling feelings of worry

Symptoms unique to ADHD can look like: 

  • Overlooking details or making careless mistakes

  • Seemingly not listening when spoken to

  • Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort

  • Difficulty following through on instructions

  • Fidgeting and squirming

  • Feeling restless 

  • Talking excessively

  • Forgetfulness 

  • Struggles with executive functioning

If you read any of the above symptoms and thought, Wait…that’s me, don’t stress. Both anxiety and ADHD are highly treatable, which we’ll dive into below.

Treatments for Anxiety vs. ADHD

Although treatment for ADHD and anxiety looks different for everyone, medication can be effective for both disorders.

Adderall is a stimulant commonly prescribed to those with ADHD. However, this medication comes with a risk of dependency and can potentially make some symptoms worse (i.e., you might find yourself with increased nervousness). Bupropion, sold under the name Wellbutrin, is sometimes prescribed off-label for ADHD treatment as well.  

When it comes to treating anxiety, antidepressants are usually the go-to medications. There are two types of antidepressants: SSRIs and SNRIs. 

SSRIs (short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase your serotonin levels — aka the “happy” chemical that helps regulate your mood. 

The most commonly prescribed SSRIs include: 

SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) work similarly to SSRIs by also boosting your serotonin levels. Where they differ is that SNRIs target a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine does a bunch of stuff for your body, including activating your cardiovascular system so your blood pressure and heart rate are happy, regulating your sleep cycle and playing a role in your body’s fight-or-flight response. 

Typical SNRIs that are prescribed are: 

If neither of these types of antidepressants is doing the job, other medications can be used to keep your anxiety at bay:

Buspirone, sold under the name BuSpar, is an anxiolytic drug originally conceived as an antipsychotic for treating psychosis. Ultimately, it was found ineffective as an antipsychotic and is now mostly used for treating anxiety disorders.

Similar to Xanax, BuSpar can provide more immediate relief for anxiety symptoms (like when you’re on the verge of a panic attack and need help ASAP), though it produces different side effects.

Bupropion, sold under the name Wellbutrin XL, falls under a category of medication called NDRIs (norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors). How do NDRIs work? They stop dopamine and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed by the brain so it has enough to function properly.

Also used to treat depression, the Wellbutrin XL dosage prescribed for anxiety tends to be smaller. It’s also helpful in treating health conditions like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and can even help people quit smoking.

Along with prescribing medication, your healthcare provider may recommend different types of therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as additional treatment. But if waiting around in a doctor’s office sounds like more trouble than it’s worth (we get it), another option is online therapy, which doesn’t even require you to leave home. 

(RelatedDepression Medications: A Complete Guide)

How to Tell the Difference of Anxiety vs. ADHD

As we’ve established, anxiety and ADHD are two distinct disorders. But they share similar traits, making it sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly which is which. 

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, someone with an anxiety disorder may have difficulty concentrating when they’re nervous or worried. But someone with ADHD may have trouble concentrating even if their brain isn’t swirling with worry.

Another contrast is that someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may become worried or anxious about problems caused by their ADHD symptoms (i.e., repeatedly forgetting keys and getting locked out of the house).

On the other hand, someone with an anxiety disorder, like generalized anxiety disorder, might be anxious about different things they can’t explain. They might feel just a general, overwhelming sense of dread or fear.

ADHD symptoms can appear in younger children between 3 and 6. Sometimes, the symptoms can be confused for disciplinary or other behavioral problems.

Most kids who have ADHD get a diagnosis during their elementary school years. To get an ADHD diagnosis, a person’s symptoms must be chronic or long-lasting, impact their ability to function and cause them to have developmental delays.

ADHD symptoms can also change with time. For instance, as a kid, you might’ve been constantly told to stop fidgeting or to pay better attention in school. As an adult, though, the condition could manifest differently, playing more of a role in failed romantic relationships or trouble performing at work. If you were more hyperactive as a child, you mind find yourself less so as an adult but more inattentive. 

That said, if you think you may have anxiety, ADHD or even both, the best way to find out is to speak to a healthcare provider, whether it’s your primary care provider or a psychiatrist.

To diagnose you, your provider might perform a mental health evaluation or use the DSM-5:

  • Mental health evaluation. Your provider may start the conversation by asking about your symptoms, as well as lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking. 

  • DSM-5. The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Understanding ADHD and Anxiety

Having a mental health disorder can feel overwhelming, never mind having two. But whether you have anxiety, ADHD or a combination of both, plenty of mental health services can provide the support you deserve. 

Navigating any type of mental illness can be daunting, but keep these takeaways in mind: 

  • ADHD and anxiety are separate disorders. But they also share similarities and can even occur at the same time. It’s still unclear, though, if ADHD can cause a person to develop anxiety or if anxiety can cause a person to develop ADHD. 

  • The first step is connecting with a healthcare provider. We’ve all spent hours Googling our symptoms in an attempt to diagnose ourselves, whether it’s a weird rash you got from hiking or more headaches than usual. But the reality is, a healthcare professional is the only person who can accurately diagnose you. They’re also the only one who can prescribe medication. Making an appointment is a great starting point (you can even do it online via the Hers telehealth platform).

  • Therapy can be a powerful support system. We’re big proponents of medication, but many types of therapy can also make you feel supported, be it talk therapy or CBT. There are even anonymous support groups you can join if you’d like more privacy.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.comand was syndicated by

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8 Smart Ways to Reduce the Price of Your Prescription Drugs

8 Smart Ways to Reduce the Price of Your Prescription Drugs

If you’re charging prescriptions to a credit card or digging for change in your car and couch every month to scrounge up enough money to pay for prescriptions, you’re not alone.

Around seven percent of U.S. adults can’t pay for prescription drugs they need, according to a 2021 Gallup poll. That’s an estimated 18 million people who say they had to go without at least one prescribed medication in the last three months, according to the poll.

If you struggle to pay for your meds or even worse, go without necessary medications, here’s some good news. With a bit of research and a strategy for finding discounts, you can save on prescription drugs.


Drug discount cards have been saving consumers money on prescriptions for decades. If your insurance doesn’t cover a prescribed drug or you’re saddled with a high copay, check the price on these drug discount sites to see how much you can save.

  • GoodRX
  • Blink Health
  • SingleCare
  • WellRX

Not up to the research? Ask your pharmacist if they have information on how much you can save with certain prescription discount cards.

Just because you’ve filled your prescriptions at CVS for the last 10 years doesn’t mean that pharmacy is the only game in town. Check prices at other local pharmacies, including your grocery store. If you can save enough to make the switch worthwhile, dole out your prescriptions among more than one pharmacy.

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Ask your doctor if the prescribed medication has a generic version to save big bucks. “Generic drugs have exactly the same active ingredients and effects as brand-name drugs, but they can cost 30 percent to 80 percent less,” according to the Food & Drug Administration.

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Ordering a 90-day vs. a 30-day supply may save money on certain drugs. Check prices for both quantities before you fill a prescription. You’ll pay more upfront but the savings over three months may be worth it.

Check with local pharmacies for any discount programs they offer. For example, when you pay $20 (or $35 for a family plan) to join Walgreens’ Prescription Savings Club, you can get discounts on more than 8,000 medications. Plus, you can fill 90-day prescriptions on select generic drugs for the price you’d pay for two 30-day prescriptions.

Bonus: Walgreens’ program also provides discounts on prescriptions for your pets.

Save money by comparing prices at online pharmacies that deliver prescription drugs right to your doorstep. You may save a lot by ordering online.

 Plus, you’ll save on gas and time by not having to drive to the pharmacy and wait in line.

Many drug manufacturers offer patient assistance programs if you meet income eligibility requirements. Contact the manufacturer for that pricey drug to find out if you’re eligible for deep discounts on a medication. To get an idea of how patient assistance programs work, visit RxAssist, which lists a comprehensive directory of patient assistance programs.

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It is important to choose your health insurance wisely.  Brokers are trained professionals that can assist you in finding the best plans for your unique needs.  If possible, find a broker that is familiar with plans in your area and that is certified to sell ACA plans.

“The least expensive plan is not always the best or the most cost-effective option.  Sometimes, a silver or gold plan may cost you less due to lower copays on brand name prescriptions. For those on Medicare, always have a broker review your part D (drug) coverage annually.  Even if your monthly premium is not set to increase, there is no way to know that your prescriptions are still covered the same way for the next year unless you do an analysis of this plan,” says Analisa Cleland, an insurance and financial advisor at Coto Insurance.

If you are on a Medicare Advantage plan, have a certified broker review your coverage annually to ensure that your plan is still a good fit for your individual needs.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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