Anxiety and ADHD are common mental health concerns that impact millions of people. Though there are a few similarities between these conditions, they also have several important differences. Being able to differentiate anxiety vs. ADHD can be an important step toward getting appropriate help for yourself or a loved one.
Anxiety vs. ADHD: Defining the Disorders
To effectively compare and contrast anxiety vs. ADHD, it can be helpful to first take a look at each of the disorders on their own.
What is Anxiety?
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) contains entries for several anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, and panic disorder.
In general, these disorders are characterized by excessive worry and overwhelming fear. Some anxiety disorders can also cause a person to experience a variety of distressing physical symptoms.
Though just about everyone has times when they are overly nervous or afraid, the symptoms of anxiety disorders can be so severe that a person is unable to function in school, at work, in the context of their relationships, or in other areas of their life.
In some cases, people who suffer from anxiety may make maladaptive behavior changes to avoid circumstances that can trigger the onset of symptoms. Others may resort to drastic measures such as substance abuse in a misguided attempt to numb themselves to their emotional pain.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As the full name of this disorder suggests (and as the DSM establishes), the symptoms of ADHD can be grouped into two categories: inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity.
Here are just a few examples of inattentive symptoms:
- Frequently making careless errors
- Not following directions
- Poor time management and organizational skills
- Often misplacing or losing important items
- Being easily distracted
And here are a few examples of hyperactive or impulsive symptoms:
- Having a tendency to interrupt others
- Intruding on events or activities without an invitation to join
- Often tapping fingers, fidgeting, or finding it hard to sit still
- Excessive talkativeness
- Impatience when required to wait in line or be called on by a teacher
Some people who have ADHD have both types of symptoms, while others only have one of these two types.
Similarities & Differences Between Anxiety vs. ADHD
Now that we’ve established the basic characteristics of these two disorders, we can turn our focus toward the similarities and differences between anxiety vs. ADHD. We’ll start with some of the features that they share, then shift to ways that they differ.
Similarities Between Anxiety vs. ADHD
The commonalities between anxiety and ADHD include:
- Both disorders affect millions of people in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world.
- Both anxiety and ADHD can make it difficult for people to perform to their full potential in school or at work.
- Due to persistent stigma, the symptoms of both disorders are sometimes misinterpreted as evidence of questionable character or low intelligence.
- Each of these disorders has been associated with an elevated risk of substance abuse and addiction.
- ADHD and anxiety disorders are treatable conditions. When people get proper care, they can learn to manage their symptoms and take greater control of their thoughts and behaviors.
Differences Between Anxiety vs. ADHD
Now let’s focus on a few of the ways that anxiety and ADHD are different from each other:
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that the median age of onset of ADHD symptoms is 6 years old. Studies suggest that the mean age of onset for all anxiety disorders is about 21 years old.
- Though both disorders are common, anxiety affects many more people. NIMH data indicates that about 4.4% of adults have ADHD. For anxiety disorders, the estimated prevalence among adults is 19.1%.
- Some anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder) can cause extreme physical distress, including dizziness, chest pain, and the sensation of being smothered or choked. These experiences are not symptomatic of ADHD.
Treatment Options for Anxiety and ADHD
As noted in the previous section, one of the similarities between anxiety & ADHD is that they are both treatable conditions.
Depending on which disorder you have and how you have been affected, you may benefit from services such as the following:
- Medication management
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Individual and group therapy
- TMS Therapy
- Ketamine therapy
Remember: There’s no single “perfect” type of treatment for either anxiety or ADHD that guarantees a successful outcome. This is why it is vital to explore your options before selecting a treatment provider. You want to be sure that you find a center that will assess the full scope of your needs and develop a personalized plan just for you.
Find Treatment for Anxiety or ADHD in Atlanta
Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry offers customized treatment and comprehensive support for adults who have been struggling with anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health concerns. We also offer dual diagnosis treatment for patients whose mental health challenges are accompanied by addictions to alcohol and other drugs.
At our treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you will have the opportunity to work with a team of skilled and experienced professionals who truly care about you as a unique and valued individual. We will take the time to get to know you and help you identify your short- and long-term goals, then we’ll develop an individualized plan that can empower you to achieve those objectives.
When you’re ready to begin your journey toward improved health, the Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our appointment page or call us today.