There is Hope to Achieve Peace and Tranquility
It is estimated that about half of those dealing with ADHD are also suffering with an anxiety disorder. These issues co-occurring together can create a perfect storm of symptoms from one disorder triggering symptoms of the other disorder into a frightening circular blend of confusion and panic that may seem endless to the person suffering with it.
Let’s be very clear about the most devastating result of these two disorders feeding off of one another-it can create a panic-induced shut down, rendering the sufferer unable to function properly, causing symptoms to be all consuming if left untreated. A panic attack can lead to a downward spiral of self-doubt of any ADHD coping skills that have been built previously along with a regression of communication skills. It can also trigger inaction of any and all important tasks within a swarm of confusion and even anger, rage or deep depression can set in.
While that is the darkest side of it, and often the symptoms don’t present that extremely, it is important to note the possibilities because if you are a loved one who is in a supportive role to someone dealing with ADHD and anxiety, compassion is paramount. Understanding that he or she is experiencing something out of their control that is potentially terrifying and confusing to them is critical to understand.
So, now that the worst is identified and the potential severity of the problem is here in the open, this is a good time to discuss ways to treat the co-occurring disorders when they present together. First of all, getting a proper diagnosis from a licensed psychiatrist is a great idea, followed by a comprehensive treatment plan that will likely include a combination of pharmaceutical, natural, and behavioral therapies. Yet, there are a few things that can be done to compliment a treatment plan and supports that can make a big difference in helping someone cope with these issues, particularly when they are in crisis.
If you are a loved one offering support to someone dealing with co-occurring ADHD and anxiety disorders, one of the best things you can do is to be informed, to know how to recognize signs and symptoms so that first you know not to take unusual and potentially hurtful behaviors personally, and second to be able to safely provide support when possible. It is common for those dealing with ADHD and anxiety to not know how to identify when they are in crisis or to know how to articulate the severity of their suffering with others, so here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
Signs & Symptoms
- Panic Attacks: This includes an uncontrollable sense of fear to pending doom, ruminating on negative and fear-based thoughts, feeling of tightness in throat and/or chest, and it can include physical symptoms such as nausea, shaking, excessive sweating, dry mouth, hyperventilating, heart palpitations and potentially even passing out.
- Aggressiveness: Fear and hyperactivity can collide and trigger aggressive behaviors from shouting to name calling and can even lead to physical aggression by throwing or banging objects to threatening physical harm or enacting physical harm to self or others.
- Disengagement: When anxiety meets with the less hyperactive presentation of ADHD, these individuals may begin to “shut down”, failing to perform at work and at home, may neglect important tasks such as paying bills or attending appointments and may present with depressive symptoms.
There are natural ways to help the heightened state of arousal and anxiety that many ADHD sufferers have. Implementing a daily exercise regimen along with daily spiritual reading is often helpful. In addition, a natural relaxer such as Relax Already contains ingredients shown to support individuals dealing with stress and tension.
Support & Safeguards
- Planning: The best way to help deal with an ADHD/Anxiety crisis is to plan for it in advance. Talk openly about what could happen, how best to communicate and how best to provide support. Work with your counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist on specific methods of helping to return to a calmer state of normalcy.
- Safety: If aggression does become a part of the symptoms, plan for a safe environment such as moving outdoors or into a bedroom to pound on the mattress and pillows.
- Self-Calming: In advance, prior to a crisis, explore methods of self-calming to use when feelings of anxiety start coming on, again, prior to crisis. Examples include: going for a run, mediating, going for a cup of coffee (decaf) or smoothie with a close friend or family member, do something creative to distract your mind such as painting, singing, dancing, writing, etc. The point is to learn to identify signs of anxiety before it peaks to try to divert your energy elsewhere.
- Communicating: Develop strategies to communicate with the people close to you to let them know when you need help and support. Perhaps consider using a certain phrase that everyone identifies to mean that your support system, family and close friends, are needed to help prevent a pending crisis or to help manage one that is underway.
- Be Transparent: Being transparent with the people close to you, being honest about what you are going through and specific about what you need is critical. Not only can your support system help you ease your mind to some degree just by knowing they care, but they can also help you process through critical daily tasks that you may neglect while in crisis such as paying bills and making appointments.
Again, the scenarios described above are extreme; most individuals dealing with ADHD and anxiety do not experience crises, but the fear is still real and painful and it can make functioning more challenging than usual. So, even if your symptoms are not nearly as alarming as those described above, it’s still a great idea to ensure that your clinical team and the people who care about you are aware of your needs and how they can best help you manage in your particular situation.