ADHD and Anxiety

ADHD and all its complexities is something I ponder on quite a bit. Through my work with Adult ADHD NI, as well as trying to manage my own symptoms, I have access to a well of information that I can draw from when thinking about ADHD.  I often wonder what it is like to be “normal” and spend a lot of time comparing those without ADHD to myself and others with ADHD. My wish is to share my thoughts through this blog with the aim of supporting the community of people affected by ADHD to better understand their condition and help readers to  find coping strategies to manage their lives in a society that at present, fails to recognise and support them with their condition.

Recently I have been working with parents of children with ADHD as well as some adults and a common theme that is arising is Social Anxiety.  Social Anxiety disorder is “A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” (Socialanxietyinstituteorg, 2016)  People with Social Anxiety are often extremely self-conscious, have fear of public humiliation when participating in social activates, with the result of feeling unable to communicate properly and often experience symptoms of panic or paranoia.  Untreated Social Anxiety disorder can also lead to comorbid conditions such as depression, panic attacks and low self-esteem.

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The parents I have spoken too report that their kids come home from school crying their eyes out because of how difficult they are finding the environment,  as well as crying in the mornings begging their mums not to force them to go to school, which can be very traumatic for both the child and the parents.  ADHD kids struggle academically, often get in trouble due to behavioural problems  and are usually very disorganised,  easily distracted, forgetful and fall behind in work.  ADHD children become  socially isolated, have difficulty maintaining friendships and are usually the kids who are not invited to birthday parties.  At a very early age these kids recognise that they are different but don’t really understand why and begin to negatively over analysis social situations.  One mother I spoke to just the other day said “my son worries about everything” .  

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For many children with ADHD the constant state of anxiety and worry continues into adulthood and is reinforced due to poor academic achievement, difficulties maintaining employment, constantly being  late for meetings, failing  to meet expectations, procrastinating, always losing things and poor social skills which makes the core symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) much worse, creating a demoralizing and vicious cycle. To cope with the constant state of anxiety many people with ADHD turn to drugs, alchohol, self-harm or complete social isolation to cope with how they feel.

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I have been recently studying Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the good news is that evidence shows that CBT for adults with ADHD is highly effective for alleviating the frustrations caused by deficits in core executive function and working memory as well as helping to reduce symptoms of Social Anxiety.  The CBT model recognises the importance of a personalized treatment plans for the best chance of successful outcomes and can help the person identify and implement, behavioural coping strategies, relieving some of the negative effects of ADHD such as poor time management and lack of organizational skills. CBT can also help the person reduce worry, identify and challenge negative beliefs and assumptions and help the person gain a more balanced view of themselves and their situation.

Other treatments that help with ADHD and Anxiety are ADHD support  groups, having access to a good psychiatrist,  relaxation therapies and as well as developing healthy habits such as exercise, good nutrition and meditation.

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As I have said before many times, ADHD is not a problem for those with the condition, it is a problem of society and how we recognise and support differences.  I personally am very hopeful  for  the future and I see changes in attitude taking place. Last week I was in Liverpool for a The ADHD Foundations annual conference.  Which was a two-day event exploring new ideas, approaches and best practice in Health, Social Care and Education for children, young people and adults with ADHD, ASC and other  neurodevelopmental conditions.  Over 800 people attended that event and I found inspiration from  Dr Tony Lloyd and his dedicated team and look forward to working together in partnership in the future to help those who are #BornToBeADHD.

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If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

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ADHD and addiction.

A theme that has been reoccurring in the ADHD support groups recently is addiction and this is no coincidence because research has shown that people with ADHD are at higher risk to substance misuse than the general population. Many adults that seek support for their ADHD are also struggling with drug, alcohol, gambling addiction etc.  For me, due to my own experiences I believe without a doubt ADHD is linked to addictions. In this blog I am going to try and break down my own experience of addiction and try to identify some of the factors that I feel play a part in people with ADHD being prone to addiction.     ADHD addicted to everthing I had my last drink and illegal substance on the 12th of September 2004. I remember that date only because it was when I hit the lowest point of my life and suicide seemed like the only option. At only 24 I was tired and exhausted of life and very alone in my mind. Alcohol in particular seemed to have a powerful hold over me, an obsession of the mind, I kept repeating the same mistakes and couldn’t find a way out. In my mind it didn’t feel like I had a drug or alcohol problem, I was sure it was a money problem. If only I had enough money to keep me out of my mind in oblivion, all the time, then I wouldn’t have to feel so low when I was sober.

From I had left school I had been living a very chaotic existence, moving from country to country, never being able to hold down a job or pay my bills such as rent and was constantly having to think of my next move when life would completely break down. The only benefit of this kind of life style was that my fast thinking and problem solving ability had increased. When I was in complete despair I suddenly would think of something that would land me back on my feet. That is exactly what happened on the morning of the 13th of September 2004 I had a single moment of clarity and I realised I could no longer drink alcohol or use substances to escape the pain of living, I sought help for my addictions and to this day I am petrified of ever returning to that place. I was extremely lucky to have had access to support to help me through the difficult days that followed and all I really had to do was ask.

ADHD the chain of Addiction

Today I can see that I have always had an extremely addictive personality and it goes right back to childhood and up to the present day. My earliest memory of addiction was sweets; I had no cut off point and would literally sicken myself. I used to get 20p on a Sunday morning and I’d fill my mouth with golf ball bubble gum and I could never eat my Sunday dinner because my stomach was sick and my head and jaws were sore from all the sugar and chewing. Just like a typical little addict I’d never learn my lesson and i’d repeat the same mistake every week and suffer my withdrawals in silence.

ADHD sugar overloadWhen I was 13 it was smoking, studies show teens with ADHD are more likely to smoke and I believe this is due to the nicotine’s stimulant and a sedative effect. I also got a high from the risk factor involved in smoking, the fear of getting caught mixed with my defiance against authority figures gave me a constant stimulant effect.

Then there was the magnetic effect of gambling machines. Just like a moth is drawn to the light of a flame it seemed I had no power over the draw of the flashing lights of a gambling machine. Due to my ADHD there was a combination of risk-taking, sensation-seeking, intensity-seeking, and impulsivity left me extremely vulnerable to problem gambling as a young adult and I’ll never forget the desperate lows that followed including depression and suicidal thoughts.Gambling ADHD

Luckily part of my personality type is its all or nothing and to overcome my addictions I’ve had to identify, accept them and simply stop doing things that cause me emotional and mental pain using whatever resources I can find to allow me to do so. I have all the addictions and some more. Some were less destructive but still left me feeling like crap. I was addicted to Candy Crush, Facebook, shopping addiction, junk food and the list could go on endlessly. If it gives me a high or takes me out of my mind I am liable to get addicted.

Over the years since I’ve had to seek support and delve deep within myself to try and identify negative thoughts, emotions, behaviour patterns and triggers that cause me to want to escape from reality or seek a high. As well as recognising vulnerabilities, identifying the patterns of poor self-control, Impulsive and compulsive behaviours and by doing so I’ve been able to overcome many of the more destructive addictions and in the process get to know and accept myself. The addict in me Is still there but manifests in less obvious ways and when I identify an addiction as becoming problematic I cut it out of my life. That’s why I’m 2 years clean from Facebook lol.

Many ADHDers like myself and plenty without ADHD will relate to the shopping addiction, online or up the town, compulsively spending money on crap you don’t need. When it comes to money many adults with ADHD simply mismanage it and this mismanagement affects other areas of our lives leading to stressful, depressive and anxious states of mind.

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In regards to what we can do as a society I feel the education system should be changed to allow young people with conditions such as ADHD to find jobs and opportunities that are more fulfilling and suitable to their personalities. Instead these young people are leaving school feeling like failures and entering jobs that are mundane and unfulfilling with the result of escaping into negative habits and addictions.

Lastly I’d like to say every person presenting to healthcare professionals with addiction problems should be screened for ADHD. In my own experience over the years I’ve met lots of addicts, gambler’s and alcoholics and I can always identify the ones with ADHD because of their extreme nature and the unmanageability of their lives. I feel that until the core issue of ADHD is identified, their lives usually continue to cause them tremendous emotional and mental pain and the chances of relapse will be greatly increased.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com