It is very common for individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to be diagnosed with another disorder, such as a learning disorder or mental health issue. Commonly, individuals with ADHD experience anxiety, most often as a result of the challenges and stress they face. In fact, it has been estimated that between 25% to 33% of individuals with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
Why do we see so much anxiety in individuals with ADHD? One reason is that having ADHD can make everyday tasks much harder for some people. Something as simple as getting to work on time can be difficult, provoking anxiety as they rush out the door and worrying their boss will see them slinking in 15 minutes late. In school, students who “zone out” in class can feel anxious when a teacher calls on them or when they realize they forgot to complete the previous night’s homework. Test-taking can be very anxiety-provoking because students with ADHD often have poor study habits and tend to complete tests more slowly than their peers, often running out of time.
As an adult with ADHD, life choices and life status can also cause anxiety. Some individuals with ADHD may have tried and failed at several attempts with college. Some may bounce from job to job, never being fully successful or finding what they really enjoy. Some individuals with ADHD may have difficulties managing money and find themselves in debt or tight financial situations. When they reflect on their lives or compare themselves to others, these individuals can feel like a failure and worry about how they can ever get better. Small stressors, such as tests and work meetings, can feel like big stressors.
The other factor that can increase anxiety in individuals with ADHD is called “emotional control.” Most people without ADHD experience emotions in a way they can manage. They get sad or mad, but it does not feel overwhelming or take over their day. For individuals with ADHD, keeping their emotions under control can be as difficult as keeping their focus or keeping organized. This means that the anxiety we all experience can feel even more intense for individuals with ADHD and show up more often in their everyday lives.