Anxiety, Adult ADD or Both?

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Reader’s Question

For as long as I can remember I’ve had anxiety-related issues. I’ve even had occasional panic attacks since the age of 6. I’ve always been a worrier and have had my share of depersonalization/derealization and depression. I’m now in my mid-twenties, and I’ve been having Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for over a year and a half. This was all confirmed by a psychiatrist.

Lately I’ve been checking up on ADD, since I find it hard to concentrate, I’ve always been a dreamer, always had problems at school focussing and studying. I find it very hard to find my place in the world, feel somewhat childish, find it hard to organize my housework, and can’t set any long term goals and so on. Needless to say my self-esteem has hit rock bottom.

I wonder if it’s common for GAD to occur together with ADD? How can you get a proper diagnosis? Is it possible for anxiety disorders to somehow mimic ADD? What are the specific problems with having ADD? And how do you know the difference between borderline and ADD? For all my life I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me. I could really use some answers.

Thanks.

Psychologist’s Reply

Adequately diagnosing attentional and anxiety-related problems can be challenging. Attentional problems can sometimes be a direct outgrowth of anxiety and depression. So, sometimes anxiety is mistaken for ADD and vice-versa. But ADD can also co-exist with an anxiety disorder. Not only that, but ADD symptoms can exacerbate anxiety just as anxiety can intensify the symptoms of ADD. So, it’s important that an individual’s history, symptom cluster, and functional impairments be carefully and comprehensively evaluated in order arrive at a reliable diagnosis.

It’s best that you address all your concerns to the physician treating you and to provide your doctor with the most complete information possible about your history and problems. It’s also important that you combine your medical treatment with other effective strategies for dealing with both your attentional and anxiety-related problems. Merely treating your symptoms will not give you the level of insight necessary to understand your problems, nor will it give you all the tools you might need to adequately address and overcome them. Discuss these issues with your physician as well.

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