Researchers don’t know exactly what brings on anxiety disorders. Like other forms of mental illness
, they stem from a combination of things, including changes in your brain
and environmental stress
, and even your genes. The disorders can run in families and could be linked to faulty circuits in the brain
that control fear and other emotions.
If you have symptoms, your doctor will examine you and ask for your medical history. She may run tests to rule out medical illnesses that might be causing your symptoms. No lab tests can specifically diagnose anxiety disorders.
If your doctor doesn’t find any medical reason for how you’re feeling, she may send you to a psychiatrist
, psychologist, or another mental health specialist. Those doctors will ask you questions and use tools and testing to find out if you may have an anxiety disorder.
Your doctor will consider how long and how intense your symptoms are when diagnosing you. She’ll also check to see if the symptoms keep you from carrying out your normal activities.
Most people with the condition try one or more of these therapies:
- Medication: Many antidepressants can work for anxiety disorders. They include escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac). Certain anticonvulsant medicines (typically taken for epilepsy) and low-dose antipsychotic drugs can be added to help make other treatments work better. Anxiolytics are also drugs that help lower anxiety. Examples are alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin). They’re prescribed for social or generalized anxiety disorder as well as for panic attacks.
- Psychotherapy: This is a type of counseling that addresses the emotional response to mental illness. A mental health specialist helps you by talking about how to understand and deal with your anxiety disorder.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This is a certain type of psychotherapy that teaches you how to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that trigger deep anxiety or panic.
What to Expect From ADHD and Anxiety
When you have anxiety along with ADHD
, it may make some of your ADHD symptoms worse, such as feeling restless or having trouble concentrating. But anxiety disorder also comes with its own set of symptoms, like:
Anxiety disorder is more than just having anxious feelings from time to time. It’s a mental illness
that can affect your relationships
, work, and quality of life.
How to Tell Your ADHD and Anxiety Apart
Sometimes, anxiety comes as a result of ADHD. When that’s the case, your worries are often about how much — or how little — you’re able to get done. You’re anxious about or overwhelmed by your ADHD.
When you have anxiety disorder on top of your ADHD, your worries are usually about a wide variety of things and not only tied to your ADHD struggles.
Talk to your doctor so the two of you can figure out where your anxiety is coming from. Some questions they may ask you are:
- Do you worry about things that don’t make sense?
- Do you have a hard time controlling these worries?
- Are you getting good sleep?
- Are your fears and worries keeping you from doing your regular activities?
- Do you feel anxious at least three to five times a week for an hour or more a day?
- Have you had a big life event happen recently?
- Do any of your family members have a history of anxiety?
How to Treat ADHD and Anxiety
To zero in on the best way to treat ADHD and anxiety, your doctor will likely look at which condition affects you the most. It’s possible that your treatment for ADHD may ease your anxiety, so you may only need to take ADHD medication
When you get treatment for ADHD, it can:
- Cut your stress
- Improve your attention so you manage tasks better
- Give you mental energy to handle anxiety symptoms more easily
If your anxiety is a separate condition and not a symptom of ADHD, you may need to treat both disorders at the same time.
Some treatments can work for both ADHD and anxiety, such as:
Effects of ADHD Medication on Your Anxiety
The most common drugs that doctors suggest for ADHD are stimulants like methylphenidate
. Even if you have anxiety, these meds may work well for your ADHD.
Anxiety is a common side effect of stimulants. Your doctor won’t know how a medication will affect you until you take it, but it’s possible stimulants may make your anxiety symptoms
If that’s the case for you, your doctor may suggest other medicines, such as the nonstimulant drug atomoxetine
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