ADHD & anxiety: understanding the connection

October 17, 2022 | ADHD Insights | ADHD, ADHD & Me, Insights

1-minute summary: Some disorders commonly exist alongside ADHD. These are known as comorbidities and one of the most common is anxiety. The coexistence of ADHD with anxiety may be as high as 30% for children and 50% for adults. Comorbidities can make treatment of ADHD more complex and highlights the importance of individualized care and treatment. Objective measures of ADHD such as QbTest, can help clinicians assess treatment performance.


When patients seek treatment for their ADHD, they sometimes find that the condition is not alone. These disorders that commonly exist alongside ADHD are known as comorbidities, and among the most common of them is anxiety.

Living with both ADHD and anxiety can potentially make getting treatment more difficult. Seeking a diagnosis can already be a stressful process, which anxiety may exacerbate. Understanding how the two conditions interact and what can be done to cope can be vital to improving the lives of people with ADHD and anxiety.

Understanding ADHD and anxiety

The coexistence of ADHD with anxiety may be as high as 30% for children and 50% for adults. [1] The commonality of occurrence does not mean every treatment plan is the same. Tailoring an individualized response is crucial, whether ADHD occurs on its own or is comorbid with one or more other conditions.

ADHD and anxiety can also look similar. Difficulty concentrating—one of the most well-known hallmarks of ADHD [2]—can also be a symptom of anxiety. Yet other symptoms such as a chronic feeling of worry or physical unease like stomach or headaches [3] that aren’t typically associated with ADHD could suggest anxiety related symptoms.

This is why having a full picture of the individual’s history is so important. Clinician interviews with the patient, as well as family and loved ones, can help give a more comprehensive view of their struggles, and lead to better, more accurate evaluations that help make real improvements in their lives.

ADHD and social anxiety

Complicating treatment of ADHD and its comorbidities is the fact that multiple types of each condition exist. You may have already heard that there are three major types of ADHD: Impulsive/hyperactive, inattentive, and combined [4]. Understanding the specific type of ADHD a person contends with is crucial to tailoring care.

On the same token, anxiety can manifest in several different ways. There are several types of anxiety recognized by clinicians, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. [5]

One study found that Social Anxiety Disorder had a high comorbidity with inattentive ADHD: as high as 62% [6]. The cooccurrence of both conditions can present a particular challenge for patients with ADHD. Anxiety about communicating with one’s peers, coupled with difficulty focusing, could make thriving in social situations more difficult than with either condition alone. Another study found that girls with ADHD and anxiety faced lower social acceptance compared to boys with ADHD [7], representing another challenge toward improving care for females with ADHD.

Living with ADHD and anxiety

The nuances of treating two or more conditions rather than ADHD alone show the importance of individualized care. Subjective measurements like interviews with the patient and their loved ones, self-rating scales, and other methods not only help paint a fuller picture of the person’s history, but can also provide the comfort and understanding a patient needs to feel comfortable with the evaluation process.

With a better understanding of the patient’s comorbidities and the unique way they interact, practitioners can provide methods that suit each individual’s needs. When utilized alongside objective measures of ADHD such as QbTest, these methods can help clinicians with valuable insight.




Related Blogs

01 Jun

Evaluating ADHD in primary care – objectively

1-minute summary: This case study shares the story of how the Sunlight Group Practice in the Wirral, Merseyside, is the...
05 Apr

Living with ADHD and the importance of early diagnosis

Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSSAHSN), a part of the wider Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) have...
14 Feb

Five benefits of dating someone with ADHD

1-minute summary: All relationships come with their challenges, but the idea that dating someone with ADHD is necessarily more difficult...