ADHD and anxiety seem to travel together. For many of us, it gets worse as we age and the expectations placed on us increase.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 19% of the US adult population is living with a diagnosable anxiety disorder. (source) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
Within the ADHD population, 70% of us are living with anxiety, depression, or some other condition in addition to our primary diagnosis.
Anxiety is the reason why when my son was born I had so much trouble being a mom.
Have you ever felt like you had to fake it? As in, fake your way through life?
When my son was a few months old I was totally faking it. I wanted to be the happy new mom.
Sitting at home alone with a (literally) screaming infant who I could not soothe, I was miserable.
So I dug in my heels and decided to fake it. I started to work out, sometimes twice a day, because the other moms did that and they looked good and seemed happy.
I avoided talking to anyone about how miserable I was because I couldn’t really explain why. There was no good excuse.
One afternoon I was nursing my son because it was the only way he would stop crying – and it occurred to me that I was having serious ADHD anxiety issues.
I write ADHD anxiety, in that way, because the two are so closely related for me and so many others.
Anxiety sucks. And if you have ADHD you will have to deal with it at some point.
ADHD and Anxiety: 5 things you need to know
1. ADHD, Anxiety, and Hypersensitivity
Hypersensitivity is quite common in both ADHDers and people living with anxiety.
With ADHDers emotional intelligence goes one of two ways: either we have “spidey” senses and we can read and feel the emotions of others, OR we have a world of trouble reading other people.
Either way, we are sensitive to what is going on around us. We are also very sensitive to judgement and rejection.
Some of us avoid crowded places and making small talk. <raises hand>
All of these are signs of hypersensitivity.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment per se. But just having some awareness of our needs is helpful.
Negative rumination is not productive
Have you ever replayed a conversation over and over in your head? Or spent hours thinking about a past failure?
These are both signs of rumination.
There is a difference between problem solving and criticizing yourself. If you are in your head berating yourself, you are ruminating.
Try to name the emotion you are feeling instead of replaying the same script over and over.
Is it embarrassment? Or frustration?
Perfectionism heightens anxiety
Everyone is shocked when I tell them that soooo many of my clients are perfectionists.
Yes, people with ADHD can be perfectionists. And it plays a huge role in their anxiety.
What does perfectionism look like?
– inability to see a middle ground
– inability to recognize positive attributes, personal or otherwise
– unrealistic expectations for new skills/learning
– focus on perfection more than mastery/improvement
– expectation of immediate gratification
Fear of Negative feedback drives anxiety
Growing up with ADHD you probably experienced a ton of negative feedback and criticism. I know I did.
This, combined with our already sensitive nature, can produce a ton of anxiety.
Some of us are so fearful of criticism we don’t voice our thoughts and ideas. It took me 3 years to work up the courage to create my own program.
I’ve been told that I seem “snobbish” because I am so quiet around new people.
Nope, it’s the anxiety. Anxiety keeps me stuck and afraid, sometimes unable to communicate very well.
Ask yourself, “How many times have I held back because I was afraid of being rejected?”
Anxiety causes us to be avoidant
When someone asks you a favor, how do you respond?
If you know that you don’t want to do it, are you able to say NO?
Believe it or not, your answer to this question has a lot to do with avoidance.
You might be avoidant if:
– you have trouble setting personal boundaries
– you have trouble saying “no”
– you refuse to act, or even think about certain things
– you have difficulty following through when asked to do something nonpreferred
The big issue with avoidance is that it hurts us, but it also hurts other people.
Hurting other people feels crappy!
And so the cycle continues. We ruminate, and we beat ourselves up.
If you have ADHD chances are, you are living with some level of ongoing anxiety.
According to Dr. Alice Boyes, “We need to make both internal and external changes in order to manage anxiety. Her books and strategies have played a huge role in my own work around anxiety.
Below is an affiliate link to her book. Please see my full disclosure.
External changes include identifying the people and situations that increase our anxiety, and reducing our commitments.
Internal changes include working through our emotions, talking to a therapist, and finding social support.
Living with ADHD is tough. So tough we often don’t even notice some of the issues that come with it.
Lets work on this together. Learn more about yourself, your emotions, and living your best life.