Updated: Jul 2
Your name’s called. “Sorry?” Startled, you look up to find everyone in the meeting is staring at you. Dammit, what were they saying again? “So what do you think?” your supervisor looks at you. Heart pounding, you try to move your face into a neutral expression. “Uh yep, sounds good,” you say, making a mental note to follow up on whatever you just agreed to later. Ugh, this is why meetings make you so anxious. You never quite manage to get them right.
Anxiety disorders identified in the DSM 5 include social anxiety and generalized anxiety . These anxiety disorders often correlate with ADHD, and in studies examining this comorbidity, it ranges from approximately 15 to close to 50 percent –. Over the years, people have proposed several reasons for this correlation between ADHD and anxiety. Some argue a subtype of ADHD includes anxiety.
In contrast, others theorize that anxiety developed alongside ADHD. Since ADHDers are more likely to receive criticism when compared with neurotypical peers, anxiety could be an unhealthy coping strategy developed to curb impulsiveness and reduce that criticism , , . There is also evidence anxiety negatively affects other executive functions, such as working memory and attentiveness, both of which can already be struggles for people with ADHD .
As ADHD and anxiety occur so often together, many papers have examined how to treat them. Overall, the consensus is that a multipronged approach is needed, taking both the unique elements of anxiety and ADHD into account , . Below I have outlined some treatments recommended in the research.
Studies have found that while regular yoga has been correlated with reported improvements in self-regulation and executive function, it has also been found to decrease anxiety symptoms and support the nervous system . As a result, it’s been identified as possible support for both ADHD and anxiety. If you are new to yoga, you could start with an online option, such as yoga with Adriene. If you find the practice too dull, try turning down the sound and adding your favourite relaxing podcast in to see if this helps with attention.
While there is some evidence that CBT is less effective for combined ADHD and anxiety than for anxiety alone, other research has also found that it can improve both ADHD and anxiety , , . Ultimately, if you have both anxiety and ADHD, it might be helpful to find an ADHD specialised therapist. They can then help you decide which combination of therapeutic approaches might work best with your diagnoses and provide additional tools as needed.
Please note that I’m not an expert in this area, so I would highly recommend talking to a medical professional before making these decisions. Some studies have found evidence that certain medication types may better support ADHD and anxiety more than others. Friesen and Markowsky  and Caye and colleagues  both noted that moving to atomoxetine may be preferable to stimulants for ADHD and anxiety.
4. Executive Function Coaching or Training
Along with these other supports, learning how best to build and manage strategies to cope with your ADHD could help you feel less overwhelmed and reduce those executive dysfunctioning experiences contributing to anxiety. Studies examining different forms of ADHD coaching have noted that many have found it helpful in reducing the severity of their executive functioning struggles correlated with ADHD –.
Overall, if you’ve been diagnosed with both ADHD and anxiety, you’re not alone. This is a common struggle for many people. Taking this multipronged treatment approach by trying a few different support services can help ensure you start addressing these separate but related difficulties. Let me know if you try anything and what you’ve found supports your ADHD and anxiety.
Talk to you soon.
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