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How Do ADHD and Anxiety Overlap in Children?

How Do ADHD and Anxiety Overlap in Children?

young girl playing in nature holding a leaf branch by her face

It’s heartbreaking to hear that children can experience mental health disorders. It can also be surprising or hard to believe for many adults. After all, we often associate these disorders with something that only adults experience.

Children are often at the crossroads of two common mental health disorders. Anxiety and ADHD both commonly start in childhood or the teenage years. ADHD, in particular, is often only associated with children, although adults often have ADHD as well.

In today’s post, we are going to go into detail about how ADHD and anxiety symptoms often overlap in children. After that, we’ll talk about how to get your child help if you believe they are experiencing either or both of these disorders.

How Do ADHD and Anxiety Overlap In Children?

ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, but that is not always the case. ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is often characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Excessive talking
  • Restlessness
  • Losing personal belongings related to their home life, school, or extracurriculars.

Anxiety, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling restless
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Stomach aches or headaches with no apparent causes.

As you can see, there are many similar symptoms of ADHD and anxiety in children. Oftentimes, if a diagnosis is made, it is only for one of these disorders and not both. However, that does not mean that the other is not occurring.

young girl playing in nature holding a leaf branch by her faceWhy They Go Hand In Hand

ADHD and anxiety often exasperate the symptoms of one another.

Children who have ADHD deal with overstimulation. They will likely need help with processing information or time management skills as it pertains to their homework or assignments. This constant pressure can cause their bodies to be on high alert consistently. This only leads them to feel stressed more frequently, as well as feeling overwhelmed.

As you can imagine, this just worsens feelings of anxiousness over time.

Executive functioning refers to somebody’s ability to follow instructions, have self-control, and the ability to plan ahead. ADHD often prohibits successful executive functioning. This will often lead children (and adults) to experience anxiety about their future and success.

Difficulties With School

Children who have ADHD and anxiety often struggle with their academics. They may find the amount of homework or tests they have overwhelming. They might become extremely anxious as a result of being unsure if they can keep up with their workload.

Additionally, children with ADHD find it difficult to sit still and focus in the classroom. These expectations often make a child fear falling behind or not being able to fit in with their peers who do well academically.

The Main Difference Between Anxiety and ADHD

ADHD symptoms can worsen anxiety and vice versa. However, there is one key difference between these two disorders. More than anything, anxiety is tied to very specific fears and worries. Still, with that said, anxiety and ADHD are often misdiagnosed for one another. And there is always the possibility that both can exist at the same time.

Treatment For ADHD Or Anxiety In Children

Knowing your child is struggling with either of these conditions is hard. It is often common for parents to see many of these challenges as just being a phase they are going through.

Children, like adults, can experience mental health conditions. This is why getting your child support and the right diagnosis early on is paramount to their future mental health.

If your child is struggling with either of these conditions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support. Child therapy can help them learn to manage their symptoms early on.

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2805 Butterfield Road suite 120
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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