My child has both ADHD and anxiety. It is more common than you think.
“He has an ADHD diagnosis and struggles with anxiety.”
“We are in the process of evaluation right now. We know she has anxiety disorder and an ADHD diagnosis is likely.”
“He always displayed the signs of ADHD but now he is experiencing anxiety all the time.”
Over the past month or so, I have been extremely busy helping families with back to school, non-traditional learning plans. At least 80% of them have included information from parents just like the quotes above.
I have read about it for years. I have have seen it in my own family and now, I am experiencing it through the eyes of other moms every single day – the link between ADHD and anxiety is real and it is significant.
When my son was first diagnosed with both, it felt like we were treating his ADHD and his anxiety disorder as completely separate things. But the more I learn, the more I realize that the overlap between the two is almost guaranteed.
Kids with an ADHD diagnosis are three times more likely to also have an anxiety disorder diagnosis. In addition, both ADHD and anxiety disorders can mimic each other.
For example, my son’s ADHD causes executive function difficulties and social differences. Both of these can create extreme anxiety for him, as he struggles to navigate the world. Conversely, when he is struggling with anxiety, he often lacks focus and can even appear hyperactive, as he works to calm down.
How Do I Know If It’s ADHD or Anxiety?
While I think it is important to work with your child’s doctor to determine an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, on a practical level, I am not sure it matters. The truth is, we do the best we can with where our children are, no matter what the diagnosis.
If my son is anxious, we work on calming strategies, mindfulness techniques and add a little sensory input to help him regulate.
If my son is struggling with attention and focus, we move more, decrease the amount of stimulation he is taking in and carefully monitor his sleep.
And if both are rearing their ugly heads? We do both.
When Your Child Has Both ADHD and Anxiety
Please hear me – I do not want to minimize this. Having a child with both ADHD and anxiety means you have a complicated child and a complicated life. I wish there was a way around it, but the only way I know to help is to encourage you to find the things that work for your child and do them.
It takes time. It takes so much effort, frustration and fear. And, my experience has been, the more I focus on my child and what he needs, the better he feels and functions.
For The Child With ADHD And Anxiety ~
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.