Understanding ADHD vs. Anxiety: Finding Clarity
If you’ve been newly diagnosed with ADHD, you may have spent most of your life believing you had anxiety. It’s understandable to feel confused about these diagnoses, as there’s a lot of overlapping symptoms between the two: struggles with focus, motivation, restlessness, etc. You may be wondering if you actually have an anxiety disorder at all or if it’s just how your ADHD manifests. First and foremost, I’d always recommend meeting with a therapist to properly understand your history and current symptoms, but here are some things to consider in the meantime.
1. The chicken or the egg paradox
When dealing with multiple diagnoses, it can be hard to determine if one caused another, or if they both naturally occurred independently. To some extent, it’s helpful to think back to your childhood and think through how your ADHD looked when you were in school. Did you tend to feel anxious in scenarios that may have made your ADHD symptoms more intense? Or where you felt negatively evaluated due to ADHD behaviors? If anxiety occurred exclusively in these situations, you may not have a separate anxiety disorder, but rather anxiety associated with ADHD.
Anxiety and ADHD can both have a negative impact on your self-esteem. Especially in school years, or even in a structured work environment, you might feel overwhelmed with rigid standards that are created for neurotypical brains. When you feel like you repeatedly fail to meet these standards, your self-esteem suffers, and you may develop symptoms of anxiety as a result. Your anxious feelings may be confined to specific situations as above, but they may also have generalized to other contexts. In this case, it is possible you have developed a genuine anxiety disorder as a result of years of untreated ADHD or unhelpfulenvironments. If that’s you, it may be helpful to look for anxiety therapy with an ADHD-informed therapist.
3. Coping Strategies
Living with ADHD or anxiety can be challenging, and often, individuals find solace in developing coping strategies. In some cases, these coping mechanisms might overlap, further blurring the lines between ADHD and anxiety. For example, avoidance behavior can be common in both conditions. People with ADHD might avoid tasks that seem overwhelming, while those with anxiety may avoid situations they find distressing. While avoidance is not always a healthy long-term choice for coping, it can certainly provide short term relief for people who are suffering with ADHD or anxiety. Recognizing these similarities is essential for understanding your unique situation and seeking appropriate therapy.
It’s important to note that ADHD and anxiety can co-occur. In some cases, individuals may have both conditions simultaneously. This co-occurrence can make diagnosis and treatment more complex, as each condition may exacerbate the other. Seeking holistic support from a therapist or mental health professional who specializes in neurodiversity and anxiety is crucial to differentiate between the two and develop a tailored treatment plan. If you can understand “is this ADHD or is it anxiety” in any given situation, you will be better equipped to support yourself with coping.
5. Finding the Right Therapist in California
The process of finding the right therapist can be a crucial step in managing ADHD and anxiety. In California, you have the advantage of access to a diverse pool of mental health professionals. To ensure you receive the most effective therapy, consider these factors:
– Specialization: Look for therapists who specialize in ADHD, anxiety, or neurodiversity.
– Location: Depending on your location in California, you might prefer a therapist in your city or region.
– Teletherapy: With the convenience of teletherapy, you can access qualified therapists from anywhere in the state. This can be especially helpful if you have ADHD, as virtual therapy removes barriers to getting to a physical appointments, making it easier to show up regularly.
– Reviews and Recommendations: Seek recommendations from friends, family, or online resources to find reputable therapists.
How it Feels to Struggle with ADHD and Anxiety
Living with ADHD and anxiety can be an intricate and often exhausting experience. It’s like trying to navigate a constantly shifting landscape where your thoughts, emotions, and actions seem to have a mind of their own.
Imagine waking up in the morning with a to-do list neatly written out the night before, but as you sit down to tackle the tasks, your mind becomes a whirlwind of distractions. It’s as if your thoughts are on a roller coaster, racing from one idea to another. Focusing on any single task becomes a Herculean challenge, leaving you feeling frustrated and defeated.
The anxiety creeps in as deadlines approach and responsibilities mount. You worry about being judged or falling short of expectations, which only amplifies your restlessness and mental chaos. It’s a perpetual cycle of feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to physical symptoms like a racing heart and tension in your body.
Social situations may also trigger anxiety. You might second-guess your words and actions, replaying conversations in your mind long after they’ve ended. The fear of being misunderstood or making a mistake can be paralyzing.
These intertwined struggles can leave you feeling isolated and emotionally drained. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this experience. Many others grapple with similar challenges, and seeking help from a therapist who understands the complexities of ADHD and anxiety can provide much-needed support and coping strategies.
In California, where resources and specialists abound, you have the opportunity to connect with professionals who can guide you on your journey towards managing these conditions and living a more balanced and fulfilling life. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards a brighter future.The journey to understanding whether you have ADHD, anxiety, or both can be complex. While the symptoms may overlap, careful evaluation by a therapist can help you unravel the underlying factors contributing to your challenges. Whether you’re in California or anywhere else, finding a therapist who specializes in neurodiversity and anxiety is a vital step toward gaining clarity and working toward a more fulfilling life.
If you’re looking for an ADHD and anxiety therapist in Sunnyvale, California, reach out to us to set up a phone call. Remember that seeking help and support is a courageous step toward a healthier and happier you.