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ADHD Medications for People With Anxiety

ADHD Medications for People With Anxiety

Medically Reviewed: Dr. Zohaib Haque
Author: Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry Team
Last Updated: April 3, 2024

Treatment for anxiety disorders can involve several different elements, including a variety of therapies, support services, and pharmacological interventions. In some cases, ADHD medication for Adults with Anxiety can be invaluable sources of symptom relief.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

One of the most important facts to understand about anxiety is that this word can be used to refer to several mental health disorders.

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the anxiety disorders section includes entries for several distinct conditions, including the following:

These and other anxiety disorders share certain symptoms, such as extreme nervousness and disproportionate fear. Many of them can also cause a variety of physical symptoms as well. 

In addition to certain symptom variations, the main difference among these conditions are the triggers that prompt a person to experience psychological and/or physical distress.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 30% of adults in the United States will develop symptoms of an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetime. 

Depending on which type of disorder a person has developed, their symptoms may include:

  • General sense of unease or impending doom
  • Restlessness, or an inability to fully relax
  • Fear of being observed, judged, and rejected by other people
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Problems focusing and concentrating
  • Headaches and muscle tension
  • Mood swings, agitation, and irritability
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Elevated heart rate and body temperature
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Chest pains, which can make a person believe they are having a heart attack
  • Sensation of being choked, smothered, or incapable of catching their breath
  • Depersonalization, or the feeling of being detached from their body, thoughts, and feelings
  • Derealization, or the sense of being separate from their environment, as though they were looking through fog or a pane of glass

Thankfully, anxiety disorders can be treated, often with a combination of medication and therapy. In some cases, treatment professionals prescribe ADHD medications for adults with anxiety.

The Connection Between ADHD and Anxiety

At first glance, anxiety disorders may appear to have little in common with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

With the exception of concentration difficulties, disrupted sleep, and restlessness, ADHD and anxiety don’t share many symptoms. Instead, the connection between these two disorders involves who they affect.

As we noted earlier in this post, just under one-third of adults will likely develop an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. However, according to a September 2019 study in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, as many as 50% of people who have ADHD also have one or more co-occurring anxiety disorders. 

These disorders occur together so frequently, the authors of that study noted, that some experts have suggested that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and co-occurring anxiety should be formally established as a subtype of ADHD.

This common co-occurrence may explain why some doctors choose ADHD medications for adults with anxiety.

ADHD Medications for Adults With Anxiety

Since ADHD is so closely associated with restlessness and hyperactivity, it may seem counterintuitive to treat this disorder with drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. But the truth is that several of the most commonly prescribed brand name ADHD medications contain stimulants:

  • Adderall and Vyvanse contain amphetamine
  • Concerta and Ritalin contain methylphenidate 
  • Dexedrine contains dextroamphetamine

For adults who have both ADHD and anxiety, medications that contain stimulants can exacerbate their anxiety symptoms. For these patients, as well as for those who have standalone ADHD but who don’t respond well to stimulants, the following non-stimulant ADHD meds may be more appropriate:

  • Strattera (which contains atomoxetine)
  • Catapres and Kapvay (clonidine)
  • Intuniv ER (guanfacine)
  • Qelbree (Viloxazine)

Also, individuals who have ADHD, anxiety, or both may also be treated with antidepressants. Options in this category include:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

Prescribing ADHD medications for adults with anxiety can often involve a period of trial and error to identify the best medication and the most appropriate dosage level. And in many cases, the best treatment approach is to complement medication with therapy and other services.

Types of Treatment for Anxiety

In addition to the medications that we discussed in the previous section, an effective comprehensive treatment plan for anxiety may also include a variety of additional elements, such as:

Just as there is no single medication that works for every adult who has anxiety, neither is there one course of treatment that is ideal for every patient. This underscores the importance of finding a treatment provider that can assess the full scope of your needs, then use this information to develop a truly personalized treatment plan.

Find Help for Anxiety in Atlanta

If your life has been disrupted by the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, but you haven’t yet found effective treatment, please don’t despair. Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry may have the solutions that you have been seeking.

Our anxiety treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a dynamic array of innovative therapies and services, all of which are provided by a team of skilled and experienced professionals. We will take the time to get to know you as a unique individual, so that we can understand how you have been impacted by anxiety and help you identify appropriate short- and long-term treatment goals. Then we will develop a customized plan to ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Every step of the way, we will encourage you to play an active role in your treatment, so that you can take ownership of your continued recovery. 

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Appointments page or call us today.

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