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Is It ADHD or Anxiety?

Does My Child Have Anxiety, ADHD or Both?

ADHD affects millions of children, who experience hyperactivity, impulsivity and difficulty concentrating. In some instances, however, stress and anxiety can cause symptoms that mimic ADHD, leading to an inaccurate diagnosis. If you think your child might have ADHD, anxiety or both, the following guide can help you get a more accurate evaluation.

What is ADHD?

A complex mental health disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that impacts millions of kids and often continues into adulthood. People with ADHD tend to exhibit impulsive behavior, hyperactivity and difficulty sustaining attention. They may also struggle with troubled relationships, low self-esteem and poor school performance. Experts aren't sure what causes ADHD; however, most believe it stems from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

What Are the Symptoms?

Children with ADHD may experience a range of symptoms, depending on the severity of their conditions. Among the most common include:

  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity: Fidgeting, difficulty staying seated in class, in constant motion, excessive talking, intruding or interrupting

  • Inattention: Careless mistakes in school, unable to stay on task, trouble with organization, easily distracted

The Link between ADHD and Anxiety

Although ADHD doesn't directly cause other psychological issues, kids with ADHD are more prone to having other conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, Tourette syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders. The latter issue is especially common in kids with ADHD. It also mimics many ADHD symptoms, which can sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis.

Experts believe that up to 30 percent of children and 50 percent of adults with ADHD also suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. At the same time, just because your child suffers from anxiety doesn't mean he or she has ADHD. While both conditions can manifest in similar ways, anxiety disorders also include unique symptoms, such as:

  • Fear without any cause

  • Chronic feelings of nervousness or worry

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping

  • Stomachaches and headaches

  • Fear of attempting new things

So Which Is it?

In most cases, a professional evaluation is needed to determine whether a child is suffering from ADHD, anxiety or both. At the same time, you can improve the chances of an accurate diagnosis by paying close attention to your child's behavior before visiting your doctor.

When children only appear to suffer from anxiety and concentration problems in situations that make them feel nervous, this is usually not a sign of ADHD. If, on the other hand, the child finds it hard to concentrate most of the time, he or she may have ADHD.

Since treatments for each condition vary, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis. You can help with this by keeping a detailed record of your child's behaviors and emotional states in relation to specific environments and situations.

Foundations Counseling provides cognitive behavioral therapy to help children overcome difficulties related to ADHD. We also offer anxiety therapy and counseling that help children and adults learn to handle stress and anxiety in a healthy manner. Contact us today!