Nerris Nassiri lives with ADHD and anxiety. In this piece he talks about how it feels like the two conditions “fight each other” and sometimes both are exacerbated. He also shares some of his tips to cope.
People with ADHD are often stereotyped as being scattered, energetic, and or even self-assured. One of the last traits you might associate with us is anxiousness.
Unfortunately, there’s a pretty strong correlation between ADHD and anxiety. Roughly 50 percent of adults with ADHD also have some kind of anxiety disorder. When I first started seeing a therapist, it was for help with my anxiety and depression — which later led to my ADHD diagnosis.
For me, my ADHD and anxiousness manifests in wildly different ways, as I’m sure it does for anyone living with both conditions. No two cases of ADHD are the same, and no two anxiety disorders are the same.
In fact, there are several different types of both ADHD and anxiety disorders. There is hyperactive/impulsive type ADHD, inattentive type ADHD, and a combination of both types of ADHD. Then, there’s generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders, which include a myriad of subtypes.
So, when ADHD and anxiety occur together, you often have a unique situation for every single individual.
Here’s how I’ve learned to accept and balance these two conditions over the years.
Sometimes, ADHD can make my mind feel like a circus. There’s an endless flow of free thoughts bouncing around in every direction, making it impossible for me to focus on one thing. For the longest time, I thought this was normal. The voice in my head worked hard to justify my thoughts.
Everyone loses their keys sometimes. Everyone struggles with choosing a career. Everyone forgets small details sometimes.
I thought my anxiety was normal, too. Anxiety can make it feel like there’s a protest happening against every positive thought my brain tries to form. This leads to sleepless night after sleepless night.
Everyone has self-doubt. Everyone worries about things. Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes.
At some point in my young adult life, anxiety and ADHD really started to work together.
While my ADHD made me want to blurt things out, my anxiety told me to shut up.
When I wanted to learn new things, anxiety told me I’d fail at all of them.
When I wanted to take on a new responsibility at work, anxiety gave me a thousand reasons why I’d ruin the entire company if I did.
ADHD says, “What could go wrong?”
Anxiety says, “Everything.”
While this constant conflict sounds dramatic, I sometimes find it to be a blessing in disguise.
Anxiety isn’t fun for me (is it for anyone?) — my brain is constantly worrying about worst-case scenarios. But for some of the really important things in life, anxiety puts the sudden (but necessary) brakes on my constantly on-the-go mind. ADHD can sometimes make me impulsive, while anxiety makes me take a step back.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish these swinging emotions could be a bit less extreme, but maybe this conflicting symphony will save my life one day.
While many people receive childhood diagnoses, my ADHD and anxiety diagnoses didn’t happen until my young adult life. Because of this, I’ve been able to reflect on and better understand my life experiences. Here are some ways I’ve learned to cope:
ADHD and anxiety are complicated in the ways they may work together. If you’re like me and you have both, know that you’re not alone in this wild and conflicting ride we call life.
While these may be lifelong conditions, they’re manageable. It may be a difficult journey, but the sooner you can accept them and tackle them head on, the sooner you’ll be able to start managing your symptoms and possibly even improving your life.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for ADHD evaluations, management, or treatment. Please consult with a professional who can apply best practices and appropriate resources to your situation.
The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen.
NPS-ALL-NP-00897 MAR 2023