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Childhood ADHD Plus Anxiety

Did you know about one in four children who have ADHD also have an anxiety disorder?

And did you know that about 60% of people who have ADHD as children will never “outgrow” the disorder, which means they’ll continue to show symptoms throughout adulthood?


And did you know that, of those adults 60% of ADHD adults, about half of them have an anxiety disorder? That’s a huge percentage of the ADHD population dealing with chronic anxiety of some form or another.

So what exactly is an anxiety disorder? An anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder which manifests with symptoms of unreasonable stress, worry, or fear that interfere with daily life and function. These disorders are generally caused by a mixture of genetics, unbalanced chemicals in the brain, and environmental influences.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there are eight main types of anxiety that people, including children, can have.

They are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

“Severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with daily activities.”

2. Panic Disorder

“A psychiatric disorder in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise frequently and without reasonable cause.”

3. Separation Anxiety

“A disorder in which a child becomes excessively anxious when separated from parents.”

4. Specific phobias

“A strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.”

5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

“A chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety.”

6. Agoraphobia

“Fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment.”

7. Selective Mutism

“A complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings.”

8. Panic Attacks

“Sudden feelings of acute and disabling anxiety.”

*The ADAA also notes that there are two disorders that look very similar to Anxiety disorder, which are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).*

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:A common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

The hard part about childhood ADHD and anxiety is that they often manifest very similarly. It’s hard to tell them apart . It’s also hard to tell if a child’s ADHD is making their anxiety worse or if their anxiety is making their ADHD worse.

Some of the biggest symptoms of anxiety are sleeplessness (which also happens with ADHD), inability to concentrate (which also happens with ADHD), and weight loss (which can also happen in an over-active ADHD child).

The key to telling the different between anxiety and ADHD in a child is generally to look at internal versus external symptoms.

For example, does your child exhibit internal symptoms like guilt, fear, nightmares, chest pain, rapid pulse, upset stomach, or shame more often than his/her peers do? If so, you might want to talk to your child’s pediatrician about anxiety.

Or does your child exhibit more external symptoms like fidgeting, inability to concentrate, excessive talking, daydreaming, blurting out in class, or impulsive actions more often than his/her peers do? If so, you might want to talk to your child’s pediatrician about ADHD.

Or are you one of the 3% of parents who have a child with ADHD and Anxiety Disorder, meaning your child exhibits both internal and external symptoms like the ones described above? If so, it might be a good idea to reach out to a pediatrician or mental health professional to have your child evaluated.

When a child has both ADHD and an anxiety disorder, it can be a nightmare trying to get them to school, get them to the grocery store, or teach them how to make friends. You can try–and it is possible–but it’s really hard. Having professional help is always better than trying to do it alone!

Do you know of a child who has ADHD and Anxiety? If so, what do they struggle with? What do they strive at?

What’s their life like?

Tell us all you can, friends! The community functions more fully when we can all share our stories of tears and triumphs.

Childhood ADHD Plus Anxiety

W. R. Cummings

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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2016). Childhood ADHD Plus Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 May 2016
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