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Adult ADD & Anxiety

By Virginia Franco ; Updated August 14, 2017

Approximately half of all adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also suffer from an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The coexistence of both ADD and anxiety disorders may significantly impair the ability to function and perform daily tasks. For many, these impairments go unrecognized well into adulthood. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, many adults learn to successfully manage their conditions and are better able to lead healthy and productive lives.


In many cases, conditions like anxiety are secondary to ADD, according to ADDitudemag.com. This means they are likely triggered by the frustration that comes along after a lifetime of coping with unrecognized or undiagnosed ADD symptoms. The website points out that oftentimes when the ADD symptoms are properly diagnosed and brought under control, secondary problems like anxiety resolve on their own.


Anxiety disorders and other comorbid conditions may come about as a result of living with ADHD.The term "comorbid" is used when one conditions exists together with another. ADDitudemag.com points out that while comorbid disorders may be caused by the same factors, they will not resolve themselves on their own once the ADD has been treated. Instead, comorbid ADD and anxiety situations require specific treatment of both conditions.


Overlapping symptoms of comorbid mental health conditions like ADD and anxiety can make proper diagnosis challenging. A full evaluation will be necessary by a qualified mental health practitioner. A personal history and self-reported symptoms as well as an interview, observation and mental health tests will all be involved in arriving at an accurate diagnosis.


When anxiety coexists with ADD and does not resolve itself once the ADD treatment is under way, a doctor may prescribe medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are most effective in dealing with symptoms of anxiety and have been used in conjunction with ADHD meds. Well-known SSRI meds include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa.

Behavioral Therapy

Many mental health professionals recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, in addition to medication when treating comorbid ADD and anxiety. When creating a behavioral therapy plan, the ADAA website states that a health professional should focus first on the disorder whose symptoms cause the greatest amount of daily impairment.

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