An arrow icon
back to all posts

The connection between ADHD and Anxiety

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that can have a significant impact on a person's ability to function in daily life. ADHD is typically diagnosed in childhood and can persist into adulthood (American Psychological Association, 2013).

There are three different types of ADHD:

1. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: This type is characterized by difficulty paying attention, staying organized, and completing tasks. Individuals might have trouble focusing, are easily distracted, and have difficulty following instructions or paying attention to details. They may also seem forgetful and struggle with time management.

2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: This type is characterized by excessive levels of activity, restlessness, and impulsivity. Individuals may have trouble staying still, have a constant urge to move around, and talk excessively. They may also have difficulties with patience, impulse control, and waiting their turn. 

3. Combined Presentation: This type combines symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

Why do people have ADHD?

The exact cause is not yet clear. It's been found that there may be many different reasons, such as genetics, the environment in which you grew up, or problems with the central nervous system at crucial moments in your development. Other factors, such as drug use, alcohol use, or smoking during pregnancy or premature birth, may also contribute to the development of ADHD (Biederman & Faraone, 2005).

ADHD and anxiety

Another interesting aspect of ADHD research is its correlation with anxiety. It has been found that about 40% of people with ADHD have an anxiety disorder (Kolar et al., 2008). In addition, certain symptoms of ADHD overlap with those of anxiety: inattention, restlessness, procrastination, sleep problems, or feeling overwhelmed (Karalunas et al., 2014). But at their core, they are different: ADHD mainly affects your behavior and ability to focus on a task (concentration and attention), and anxiety mainly refers to intense feelings of worry and anxiety (nervousness). However, certain struggles relating to ADHD can lead to the development of anxiety. 

The link between ADHD and anxiety can be attributed to how ADHD symptoms affect a person's self-esteem and confidence. Someone with ADHD might feel inadequate due to their difficulty with attention, which affects their performance and completion of tasks. This can create a cycle of anxiety as constant worry and fear of failure become prominent. For example, people with ADHD may experience anxiety when starting a new task because they fear they won't be able to focus or complete it successfully. This anxiety can further interfere with their ability to focus and worsen their ADHD symptoms (Biederman et al., 2006).

In addition, the struggle with executive functioning associated with ADHD, such as difficulty planning, organizing, and managing time, can also contribute to anxiety. These difficulties can lead to increased stress and worry about meeting deadlines or remembering important tasks, which further intensifies the anxiety response (Mikami et al., 2013)..

The relationship between ADHD and anxiety can also be attributed to external pressures and societal expectations. People with ADHD often face criticism, judgment, and unsupportive environments that can exacerbate their anxiety symptoms. The constant pressure to conform to societal norms and perform well academically or professionally can further increase their feelings of anxiety.

So, it's important to be aware that ADHD and anxiety can be linked. The challenges and symptoms that someone with ADHD faces can lead to anxiety, but anxiety can also exacerbate ADHD symptoms, leading to increased impulsive behavior, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating.

Recognizing and addressing the possible link between ADHD and anxiety that someone may be experiencing can lead to more effective and comprehensive treatment approaches, so it may be helpful to consult mental health professionals experienced in both ADHD and anxiety disorders in the evaluation and treatment process. Treatment options may include a combination of therapy, psychoeducation, medication, and lifestyle adjustments that target both ADHD symptoms and anxiety. By addressing both conditions simultaneously, individuals can develop effective strategies for managing symptoms, improving self-esteem, and leading a fulfilling life.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Biederman, J., & Faraone, S. V. (2005). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Lancet, 366(9481), 237–248.

Biederman, J., Monuteaux, M. C., Mick, E., Spencer, T., Wilens, T. E., Silva, J. M., ... & Faraone, S. V. (2006). Young adult outcome of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a controlled 10-year follow-up study. Psychological Medicine, 36(2), 167-179.

Karalunas, S. L., Fair, D., Musser, E. D., Aykes, K., Iyer, S. P., & Nigg, J. T. (2014). Subtyping attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder using temperament dimensions: toward biologically based nosologic criteria. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(9), 1015-1024.

Kolar, D., Keller, A., Golfinopoulos, M., Cumyn, L., Syer, C., & Hechtman, L. (2008). Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4(2), 389–403.

Mikami, A.Y., et al. (2013). Anxiety and social functioning in children with ADHD: Patterns of impairment and links to ADHD subtypes. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(6), 781-794.

Stay in the loop!

Don't miss out on the New Blog Posts! We cover mental health topics with valuable insights and tips from Clare and our experts.

Get an email notification straight to your inbox.

Sign Up


Get Started

Sign up and start taking care of your mental health.
Get the support you're looking for right away.

Sign Up Now