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Anxiety Disorder vs. ADHD

Updated on July 10, 2016
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This Hub is in response to a request from fellow Hubber, Mentalist acer, who gave me the honour to answer the question: "What is the Difference Between hyper-active and anxiety disorders." Thank you for the opportunity, Mentalist acer.

Some Statistics to Start Off

According to recent studies, 25% of children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) have Anxiety Disorder. Similarly, 25% of children with Anxiety Disorder have ADHD. This may seem surprising, considering the two disorders seem so completely different but there are some aspects of each disorder that "supports" the other.

Sidebar - a brief personal experience

I once babysat a child who was about 10 years old who I thought was the most badly behaved child. He could never sit still and was constantly kicking his brother under the table during homework time. He would gaze out of the window when he was supposed to be writing and then he would randomly stand and begin running around.

This child could be so sweet sometimes and at other times, so rude. He would interrupt people while they were speaking so he could say something and one he started speaking, I couldn't get him to be quiet.

In school his grades ranged from C's to F's and he came home EVERYDAY with a bad report or a note from a teacher.

I tried helping him out with his homework on several occasions but it was so frustrating. He would constantly drop his pencil just so he could get up and pick it up. He would crack jokes in the middle of me trying to explain something to him or he would slip in an inappropriate remark when ever he felt like it.

As it turns out, that child had ADHD and after some attention from professionals in that area, there was a huge improvement in his behaviour.

Now that child is a responsible, more focused teenager. He is also home-schooled, which has proven to be beneficial for him.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common childhood disorder (rarely seen in adults) that affects the child's ability to remain focused. Children with ADHD are often difficult to control since they do not listen very well.

Characteristics of children with ADHD

  • Unable focus on one thing - they constantly switching from one thing to the next
  • Easily distracted and easily bored - unable to stay on one task for longer than a few minutes
  • Very forgetful and easily confused
  • Unable to easily learn new things
  • Have trouble completing homework assignments
  • Bad listeners and have trouble following directions
  • Daydreamers - always in a world of their own
  • Cannot sit still and constantly move about while seated
  • Chatterboxes - some cannot seem to stop talking at times
  • They run about a lot, often wanting to touch everything they can get their hands on.
  • Impatient and can appear rude for interrupting someone while they're talking or for being unable to wait their turn (such as in a game)
  • They act on an impulse without thinking things through

What is Anxiety Disorder?

There is a spectrum of Anxiety Disorders, ranging from Panic Disorder to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and even to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Generally speaking, Anxiety disorder causes the afflicted person to be constantly fearful. Though anxiety is a normal and sometimes healthy emotion, prolonged anxiety that can never seem to go away is detrimental to a person's psychological and sometimes even physical well-being.

Anxiety disorders tend to co-exist with other mental illnesses. It can also be the result of physical illnesses. Because there are so many different types of Anxiety Disorders - all with a different set of symptoms - I can only list the similar symptoms.

Common Symptoms Across the Anxiety Disorder Spectrum:

  • Feeling constantly tense or worried
  • Feeling on edge all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating - sometimes the person's mind even goes blank
  • Having anxiety so severe that it interfere with daily life
  • Possibly having irrational fears (phobias)
  • Attacks of unexpected, overwhelming panic
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia

The 'Spectrum' of Anxiety Disorders

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The Effect of Anxiety on ADHD

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders significantly distress those afflicted with it and can impair functioning of daily living. In children, Anxiety Disorders can especially cause restlessness and concentration difficulties that resemble the symptoms of ADHD.

Similarly, a child with ADHD can constantly feel irritable and on edge. The child can even suffer with insomnia and other sleep disturbances - all which are symptoms of Anxiety Disorders. The hyperactivity as seen in children with ADHD can actually be the result of the child feeling anxious all the time - it all depends on how the child reacts to the anxiety.

If a child has both Anxiety Disorder and ADHD, they may not respond well to treatment (medicinal). They may also be a higher risk of side effects.

In Closing...

"Consider that the hallmark of a typical youngster with ADHD is acting without thinking. In contrast we might say that a youngster with an Anxiety Disorder 'thinks too much'." - Genn S. Hirsch, M.D.


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    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thank you for commenting!

    • authorfriendly profile image


      6 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Thanks for this useful contast of anxiety and ADHD.

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thanks Maita. I actually learned a lot about the differences myself while researching. It's really interesting to me. Thanks for the comment!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      7 years ago from US

      Great read for parents, Now I know more about the difference, Thanks. Maita

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      While there are A LOT of misdiagnoses about ADHD and other related 'labels' for children, that child I mentioned in this Hub, definitely had ADHD. It was so terrible... he really couldn't focus on ANYTHING. Not even video games.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • gr82bme profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I am 52 years old. I hate the labels and drugs people are putting on children just because they don't want to deal with their children. When I was a kid in school you never had any of this. Its called life! Teach your children to deal with it!

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thank you very much, Ms. Audrey! The Jonathon Chronicles, huh? Sounds very interesting. In that Hub about you boogie boarding I remember your son Jonathon was the one to scoff about how you embarrassed him... haha, I remember his comment. Too funny!

      Wow, I can sure digress, can't I? You're absolutely right about the proper diagnosis of children. We can't be continuously misdiagnosing and incorrectly medicating small bodies.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Very beautifully done! I haven't started my Jonathan Chronicles yet - our oldest boy had/has ADHD (he is now 34) - what a ride! You make some good points though between the two. I hear you on the thin line between mental disorders as well and it is really important to properly diagnose children in particular but even adults! Great information and so beautifully presented!

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Thank you MPG. When I started studying psychology as a major I was surprised how very thin the line was between mental disorders. They're so many similarities at times and so many of them have co-morbidities.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You have made some very good and clear points in this hub, well done Kaltopysd. Anxiety disorders do tend to coexist with other mental disorders, including those on the Autism spectrum. It is good to know the difference when it comes to mental disorders because as you say, medicine doesn't always work when there is more than one disorder.

    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Hello, K9,

      I'm glad this Hub was of use to you as well. I can't imagine dealing with PTSD, so I tip my hat to you and wish you the best. Keep going strong.

      Thanks for commenting.

      -K. Alto

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      Well done hub. It would seem you have touched on many of the facets surrounding the disorders. Very organized and clear presentation of the issue. PTSD has long been an associate of mine and does take some awareness to keep at bay, your hub has allowed me to better understand a few of the cousin disorders as well. Thank you for writing this hub and Thanks Mentalist acer for requesting it.

      ~Always choose love~


    • kaltopsyd profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      No problem, Mentalist. I'm glad I could be of help.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      8 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      My hyper-activity leads to insomnia and succeptible to're right the symptoms reduce with maturity...thank you for the clarity Kalopsyd;)


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