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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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