Mental health disorders often occur alongside a broad spectrum of other mental and physical health conditions. For many individuals, emotional instability can manifest in other parts of the body, producing symptoms that—on the surface—may seem unrelated to the original diagnosis. This is especially true for those suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which science has linked to anxiety and depression.
ADHD is often concurrent with other conditions, particularly in children. What does science say about the link between ADHD, anxiety, and depression? Does one condition cause the other? If you or your child struggle with these conditions, are there strategies you can use to manage symptoms without resorting to medication?
In this post, we’ll answer these questions and more as we help you understand the downstream effects ADHD can have on mental health, including its relationship to conditions like anxiety and depression.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions among children in the United States. It can also last well into adulthood, causing symptoms such as:
- Decreased focus
- Difficulty sitting still
- Risk-taking behavior
- Difficulty following instructions (at home/in class)
- Prone to careless mistakes
- Challenges getting along with others
- Increased chatter and talkativeness
While ADHD is not curable, it can be managed effectively. As children with ADHD reach adulthood, their symptoms often evolve, turning into extreme restlessness, disorganization, impulsiveness, anger, and frustration. These symptoms can disrupt work, relationships, and cause problems in many aspects of their life.
What Is Depression?
One in 15 adults currently suffers from clinical depression, which is diagnosed from symptoms such as:
- Appetite changes
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Feeling despondent (sad)
- Increased fatigue
- Loss of interest in activities
- Suicidal ideation
Although sadness can be temporary, clinical depression develops when symptoms extend beyond two weeks mark, indicating a condition that can last a lifetime without the proper care.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion (and can be temporary), but also describes a clinical health condition that can outlast its causes. Anxiety can work in your favor sometimes by sharpening your mental acuity for a big test. You can also feel normal levels of anxiety around an important life decision. However, for people suffering from chronic anxiety, the condition can be crippling.
There are also many different forms of anxiety disorder, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder/GAD (causing excessive, obsessive worry for months at a time)
- Panic Disorder (attacks of sheer panic)
- Phobias (situational fear—contingent on certain environments or objects)
These anxiety disorders cause more than a brief, emotional episode, and can also cause physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
While we don’t know what exactly causes these anxiety disorders to occur, commonly recognized risk factors include:
- A family history of mental health conditions
- Physical health conditions (heart arrhythmia or thyroid conditions)
- Traumatic or stressful events
Can You Have ADHD and Anxiety?
If you or your child is living with ADHD, you likely have anxiety or another concurrent health condition like depression. Nearly 50% of adults living with ADHD also have some other form of anxiety-related disorder. Children with ADHD also frequently have other mental health concerns:
- 33% with ADHD also have another coexisting condition
- 16% exhibit two other illnesses
- 18% possess three or more
Because these cases can be nuanced, providers often have difficulty treating these complex and overlapping mental health conditions. The first step is to understand the differences between these illnesses.
Can You Differentiate Between Anxiety and ADHD?
ADHD can present symptoms that mirror anxiety symptoms, such as nervousness and an inability to concentrate. When distinguishing between the two, doctors try to discern whether a lack of focus is caused by fearful thought patterns (anxiety) or a generalized lack of attention (ADHD).
Once a diagnosis is made, how do doctors treat these diseases which exhibit similar symptoms but are potentially caused by different things?
How to Treat ADHD and Anxiety?
Medications are often the first approach doctors use to treat mental health conditions like ADHD and anxiety. Stimulating drugs can help ADHD sufferers control their impulsivity and concentrate by rewarding certain behaviors and limiting others.
These medications focus on the same areas of the brain that regulate our ability to concentrate and our emotions. However, often medications mask the underlying issue—while they can help, they solve only one part of the equation. For this reason, doctors often combine medications with behavioral and holistic health therapies that foster self-control in patients with these conditions.
Can ADHD Cause Depression and Anxiety?
ADHD, depression, and anxiety frequently occur together in children and adults. While we can’t prove that ADHD causes anxiety or depression, their frequent combination suggests a correlational or causal relationship between the three.
While many people consider ADHD a condition that almost exclusively affects children, nearly 4.5% of the adult population in this country also live with ADHD. In fact, up to 90% of these cases demonstrate at least one other mental health condition.
How does this happen? While every person experiences mental health disorders differently, in many instances, one clinical diagnosis can lead to another. Let’s take ADHD, a diagnosis that often occurs in childhood, as an example.
If you’re an adult with ADHD, it may cause problems at work and in your relationships, leading to instability that can cause anxiety. Difficulty maintaining relationships can result in despondency and the loss of hope. All of these conditions can mingle together into a toxic mixture of mental health issues.
While medications can help with one condition, they can exacerbate others, making it challenging for doctors to create a balance between them. For this reason, holistic therapies and mindfulness have recently been adopted as effective approaches to help patients manage multiple conditions with minimal risk.
Are There Holistic Methods to Treat Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD?
Recent studies have shown that holistic treatments, such as yoga, music therapy, mindfulness, and meditation, are just as effective at managing ADHD, depression, and anxiety as some medications.
At Poppy Life Care, we concentrate on four key holistic treatments to improve outcomes for patients with one or more of these conditions, including:
- Meditation (to calm the mind, improve sleep, and alleviate anxiety and depression)
- Yoga (relax the body and calm anxious or sad thoughts)
- Nutrition (improve physical health and wellness)
- Music (calms the mind, increases focus, and produces more “happy” chemicals)
If you’re struggling with ADHD, depression, or anxiety, call the experienced, confidential experts at Poppy Life Care. Our team can help with holistic treatments to help you cope with your conditions and heal. Speak with one of our wellness coaches today.