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Can Stress and Anxiety Trigger ADHD?

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A Note from the Editor

October is ADHD Awareness Month. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, affecting over 6.1 million children in the United States. Adults can also struggle with ADHD, as our recent guest blog post What Adult ADHD Is Like for People at Midlife makes clear.

The purpose of ADHD Awareness Month is to raise awareness of ADHD, remove the stigma, and highlight the available supports that enable individuals and families to thrive with ADHD.

Jay Boll
Editor in Chief

Can stress and anxiety trigger ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)? Can ADHD trigger stress or anxiety?

What’s the link between these three conditions?

If you are living with ADHD, you may want to know if the condition can also cause you stress and anxiety. Again, if you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you may want to know if there are chances of developing ADHD.

The truth is, symptoms of stress, anxiety, and ADHD may sometimes appear to be similar and confusing. So, where’s the borderline?

Let’s learn!

The Connection Between Anxiety and ADHD

According to research, 50% of adults and 30% of children living with ADHD have anxiety disorders. If you are experiencing the former, it can be difficult to identify symptoms of the latter. Both ADHD and anxiety tend to make one feel restless and lacking the ability to relax.

However, the two are slightly different. ADHD affects concentration and ability to focus, while anxiety affects your nervous system making one feel fearful and less confident.

If you are living with ADHD, you will notice symptoms such as:

  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Careless mistakes
  • Trouble organizing tasks
  • Cutting into conversations

If you are experiencing anxiety, symptoms such as the ones listed below may appear:

How to Differentiate ADHD and Anxiety

If you feel restless and unable to concentrate on a task for a particular reason that is making you feel uncomfortable, you may be experiencing anxiety. But if you feel restless and unable to concentrate in any situation, you may have ADHD.

The Connection Between ADHD and Stress

ADHD is a mental health condition that develops in childhood and progresses as one becomes an adult. It can be caused by genetics, premature birth, or environmental toxins.

On the other side, stress is caused by stress hormones – adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine – that are produced when one faces danger, threat, or challenges.

Stress is different from ADHD. Stress does not develop from childhood and goes on as one grows up.

It is common for individuals with ADHD to experience stress – not that individuals without ADHD don’t experience stress. But because of the challenges brought on by ADHD, such as feelings of frustrations and helplessness, it often leads to stress.

If you have ADHD and uncontrolled stress, there are high chances of developing other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

How to differentiate ADHD and Stress

You can experience stress and overcome it within minutes through mental techniques such as meditation and positive affirmation.

With ADHD, it’s not easy to overcome the symptoms within minutes.

If you feel frustrated due to a particular reason, then you may be experiencing stress. However, if you feel frustrated for no specific reason, then you may have ADHD.

Common ground

There is no medical research that has proven that stress and anxiety can trigger ADHD. Anyone can get stress and anxiety, including individuals with ADHD. Therefore, ADHD is not a stress or anxiety disorder.

Other conditions that accompany ADHD include depression, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, autism, and substance abuse.

However, having ADHD and experiencing stress or anxiety can worsen your mental health condition. It is advisable to take care of yourself through a doctor’s help and not just your family and friends.

Here are some treatments you should consider if you or your loved one is experiencing ADHD and stress/anxiety:

1. Medication

There are five types of medications that are used for ADHD treatment. These are:

  • methylphenidate
  • dexamfetamine
  • lisdexamfetamine
  • atomoxetine
  • guanfacine

Each individual living with ADHD has a unique journey of coping with the condition. Therefore, to ensure you get the right medicine, you should see a doctor or specialist for a prescription.

Some of these medicines are taken daily, while others are taken on certain occasions, such as school days.

Taking medication will help to cope up with ADHD and, at the same time, lower the chances of being frustrated due to challenges caused by the condition, minimizing any stress that may creep in.

Your specialist should advise on how long you should take medicine, but, in many cases, you may need to continue taking medication as long as it is helping.

2. Therapy

Besides taking medicine, therapy is very important in treating ADHD in children, teens, and adults. Therapy will help to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Some therapies for ADHD include:

  • Psychoeducation will help you understand your condition and its effects. This method of learning will help ease the process of coping and living with ADHD.
  • Behavioral therapy will help you or your child develop better behaviors to manage ADHD. It may involve rewarding your child when he behaves well or encouraging progress using other behavioral management techniques.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy  (CBT) involves changing the way you think or do things. It can be done with the help of a therapist either alone or in a group. CBT can significantly help to lower stress and anxiety levels.


Living with ADHD can be frustrating, especially when the challenges of managing the condition overwhelm you. It can lead to the development of stress and anxiety.

Also, experiencing stress or anxiety can, at times, make you feel as if you are bound to develop ADHD. However, there is no medical evidence to support the belief that stress or anxiety can trigger ADHD.

Managing ADHD is very important. It should be at the top of your priority list if you have this disorder. If you manage the condition well, you should not have to worry about stress or anxiety.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Author Bio: Felister Wamaitha is a health and wellness freelance writer. She finds pleasure helping people with health and wellness concerns navigate through hardships. She writes on mental health, addiction, nutrition and self-development.

Image by www.rawpixel.com

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.

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