If you or a loved one have ADHD, managing the symptoms is a top priority. Sometimes, it can be hard to regain control, especially if you’re mentally stressed or anxious. In such moments you may wonder, “Does stress and anxiety trigger ADHD?” Since you’re bound to interact with potentially stressful and anxious situations, understanding the interaction of these three conditions is crucial. In this article, we address the relationship between stress, anxiety, and ADHD.
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ADHD and Stress
Research has proven that the early years of a child’s growth are crucial to proper development. The brain forms patterns and pathways according to the experiences it’s exposed to. When children experience touch, contact, and affection in their early stages of growth between birth and 18 months, they experience healthy emotional development, which may carry on to adulthood.
Unfortunately, traumatic events, which include neglect, abuse, violence, or deprivation, may occur during childhood. These situations lead to development problems, which often cause negative patterns in social behavior and increase the risk of developing ADHD.
For example, studies show that children with parents that divorced are twice more likely to undergo ADHD treatments, while those from low-income families on welfare are more likely to be on ADHD medication by 135 percent. There’s also evidence that children born by mothers suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are more likely to have ADHD.
Usually, chronic stress on the brain results in changes in brain function. The natural response is to release more stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to create a fight-or-flight mechanism. In this mode, the body naturally directs resources towards the muscles and functions around the immune system, libido, and appetite shut down.
The result is an unhealthy development of distorted biochemistry. Consequently, the brain cannot stop itself from triggering more stress hormones, which ultimately affects the brain’s development and function.
The primary memory center of the brain, which is the hippocampus, bears a significant part of the damage. Since little sugar is dedicated to memory functions, the short term memory is affected. As a result, stress for a person with ADHD affects their ability to retain memories. An affected person may find it challenging to remember activities and instructions, which can cause problems in their social and academic life.
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As cortisol levels rise, they affect the production of serotonin- which is responsible for regulating the body’s circadian rhythm, temperature, pain, and sleep. Without proper rest and disrupted body function, you suffer further stress. As such, if you suffer from stress and ADHD, symptoms of impulsivity may be hard to control. Other problems, such as difficulty in staying organized and irritability, may also frequently present themselves.
ADHD and Anxiety
ADHD and anxiety disorders are commonly entwined. More than 50% of people with ADHD often struggle with anxiety. The anxiety could include general anxiousness, panic, and social phobia. Research suggests that ADHD and anxiety have a similar genetic makeup, which may simultaneously increase the occurrence of both conditions.
Anxiety, in itself, can impair your ability to function in society. If you suffer from anxiety, you may often find yourself in constant panic and fear, which may inhibit your ability to stay organized and environmentally aware since your energy is directed towards muscles.
If you have ADHD, executive functions such as organization and regulation are already affected. Adding anxiety to the situation exacerbates the symptoms. Interestingly, however, ADHD may also cause anxiety. If you feel that you cannot perform an activity sufficiently because you cannot focus, or stay organized, you’re likely to become anxious when required to perform specific tasks.
There are different types of anxiety besides general anxiety disorder. Social anxiety causes you to feel embarrassed and stressed about performing activities in a social setting or interacting with others. Some people may also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially after undergoing traumatic events.
As earlier mentioned, if these traumatic events happen in your childhood, they can influence the likelihood of developing ADHD since the body is always in a fight-or-flight state. As the body stays in this anxious state, the cognitive functions of the brain are affected.
It, therefore, is easy to trigger ADHD symptoms through anxiety. Focusing on activities, a general difficulty in social situations, irritability, and difficulty in regulating emotions, withdrawal, and obsession with specific activities may all happen due to anxiety.
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A Common Ground
While ADHD, stress, and anxiety are different conditions, they often overlap. As such, the management of one situation could affect others positively. For instance, if you sort treatment for ADHD to help you function better, finish activities, focus, and enjoy better sleep, there’s a chance that your stress and anxiety will also decrease.
However, since you cannot wholly avoid stressful and anxious situations, it’s essential to seek help and understand how to cope. Coping mechanisms are crucial because having ADHD could stress you or make you anxious, while stress and anxiety can also trigger your ADHD.