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What Is the Difference Between ADHD and Anxiety?



Someone looking to understand the difference between anxiety and ADHD to receive the proper support.

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and Anxiety often go hand in hand. They can both present with similar symptoms, but they’re actually quite different. You may be feeling like its hard to accomplish tasks because you’re constantly worried about future events. With ADHD you could have a hard time getting things done because you dont know what step to take first because the task can feel too overwhelming leading to decision paralysis. This blog explains some basic differences between Anxiety and ADHD.


What is ADHD?


ADHD can be described as having a brain that's constantly 'on'', while Anxiety can sometimes feel more like your brain is worrying nonstop. ADHD typically involves symptoms like difficulty focusing, impulsivity, and hyperactivity (though not always).


With ADHD, you might notice a pattern of forgetfulness, disorganization, and difficulty following through on tasks. It’s like having a bunch of browser tabs open in your brain, but none of them are actually loading properly.


What is Anxiety?


On the flip side, Anxiety is more about nervousness and a persistent feeling of unease. This can present in physical sensations such as muscle tension and fatigue. The consistent rumination of catastrophizing, what if’s, and persistence of something feeling wrong can easily overtake you and cause significant impairment in one’s day. 


Anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweaty palms, and even panic attacks. Tuning into those bodily sensations can feel pretty scary while its happening.


The Differences Between ADHD and Anxiety


Someone looking to understand the difference between anxiety and ADHD to receive the proper support in Colorado

Imagine you’re sitting in a quiet room trying to finish a project. With ADHD, your brain might be like a pinball machine, bouncing from one thought to another faster than you can catch them let alone comprehend them. On the other hand, Anxiety will notice every creak of the floorboard or rustle of leaves outside leading to a sense of impending doom, making it impossible to concentrate.


One big difference between the two is their root cause. ADHD can relate more to brain structure and neurotransmitter levels, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Anxiety can stem from a variety of factors, including genetics, life experiences, and brain chemistry imbalances.


What does ADHD and Anxiety Look Like Together?


When presenting together, having both ADHD and anxiety can feel destabilizing.


Here’s where it gets tricky: ADHD and Anxiety often like to team up and throw a double whammy at you. It’s possible to have both at the same time which can be difficult in day-to-day functioning. This can make diagnosis and treatment a bit more complex since symptoms can overlap and intertwine like a tangled ball of yarn.


What Does Treatment for ADHD and Anxiety Look Like?


Treatment for ADHD is often managed with stimulant medications (like Adderall or Ritalin) or non-stimulant medications in combination with talk therapy. Anxiety could respond better to therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, or medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). For those who have both ADHD and Anxiety it can be important to identify symptoms individually in order to customize treatment.


Where to Start for Treatment for ADHD and Anxiety


It’s crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional such as a therapist or counselor to learn more information and to demystify both conditions. If you're interested in learning more, our therapists at Catalyss Counseling can provide compassionate care and support you through this process.


In a nutshell, ADHD and Anxiety might share some similarities but it's important to know the differences for proper care. Understanding the distinctions can be crucial in getting the right support and treatment. So, let’s keep the conversation going and continue to shed light on these important topics. After all, the more we can learn about these conditions, the more we can break down the stigma surrounding mental health and more.


How We Can Help

Want to learn more about our ADHD therapy?


We have individual and group options for you!


ADHD therapy is not here to make you fit in a box. Instead, it's here as a resource to help you create routines, strategies, and skills to help you live a more meaningful life. 


If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Begin your journey towards a calmer, more balanced life


Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:



                                                                   Author Biography

Marie Clyne, therapist in Colorado

Marie Clyne is a licensed social worker and provider at Catalyss Counseling. Her focus centers around adults struggling with Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD. Marie's passion lies in getting to know you, who you want to be, and working together to help translate those goals into reality. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.












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