The Difference Between Anxiety and ADHD Hyperactivity

Do you ever feel anxious but don’t know why? Then it may be hyperactivity instead of anxiety.

As someone living with ADHD, do you know that many of the physical, mental, and emotional experiences you’ve been attributing to anxiety may actually be due to the hyperactivity of ADHD.

In fact, there’s so much overlap between the two it could be difficult for you and the professionals you work with to differentiate them and recommend an accurate plan for addressing it.

Learning the difference on paper isn’t the same as knowing it in your body. The introspective work I do with my clients helps them see and feel the difference to significantly improve their quality of life by creating targeted self-care plans. How cool is that?

Now let’s sort the two with the help of the diagram I created. The left and right circles are self-explanatory. It’s the overlap where we need to dig deeper.

Anxiety can be spotted by its pervasive worry and fear, showing up in ways that can cripple your ability to function day to day. On the other hand, the hyperactivity from ADHD, with its boundless energy and impulsivity, creates its own challenges, often misunderstood and misinterpreted in social, educational, and work settings.

Understanding where these symptoms originate is key to learning and applying the best strategies for the job. I work with my clients on the introspection needed to understand and manage their emotions so they aren’t overwhelming. Makes it a lot easier to discover what’s underneath the emotions.

Anxiety is like a shadow cast by an overactive amygdala and is often rooted in a blend of genetic predispositions and the stresses of life. It’s like our brain’s alert system is set a tad too sensitive, making us perceive threats everywhere. On the flip side, ADHD hyperactivity dances to a different rhythm, orchestrated by the unique symphony of our brain’s neurological pathways.

It’s less about the external world’s chaos and more about an inner drive to “do”, a zest that overflows due to the way the wiring in our brain uses dopamine to choreograph our attention and activity level.

Imagine a child, not driven by fear or trauma, but by a brain that’s wired to be perpetually on the move, making sitting still or waiting patiently feel like an insurmountable task. They may conclude sitting still makes them anxious when in fact they’re feeling restless because their body demands movement and they’re working to comply with the request to sit still.

Hopefully, this gives you a beginning sense of this interesting relationship.

When it comes to mental health, if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, it could be a goose practicing ventriloquism. Simply checking the boxes means only the most obvious symptoms are considered relevant. It’s when you’re able to look at your experiences with a quieter mind that the difference becomes more clear. I love teaching people how to do this. 

We also guard against the one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, which too often leads to misdiagnosis and mistreatment, further complicating your ability to meet life with the calm and focus that helps you get things done.

The better and more deeply you learn to understand yourself, the better able you are to advocate for more personalized, compassionate, and effective care while also educating the professionals about what they need to learn more about and what questions to ask their patients with ADHD.

Ready to unravel the complexities of ADHD and anxiety in your life? Let’s walk this journey of self-discovery together. Dive deeper into understanding yourself and find the right strategies for you. Start your journey here and transform the way you experience your world.

Anxiety vs. ADHD Hyperactivity Venn Diagram

Anxiety vs. ADHD Hyperactivity

Left Circle (Anxiety):

  • Emotional Symptoms: Excessive worry, fear, apprehension.
  • Physical Symptoms: Stomachaches, headaches, rapid heartbeat, sweating.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: Avoidance of feared situations, compulsive behaviors.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating due to anxious thoughts, rumination.

Right Circle (ADHD Hyperactivity):

  • Core Symptoms: Excessive physical movement, impulsivity.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: Inability to engage in activities quietly, risk-taking.
  • Social Symptoms: Interrupting conversations, difficulty waiting turn.
  • Attentional Symptoms: General pattern of inattention, unrelated to worry.

Overlap (Common Symptoms):

  • Emotional Dysregulation: Both anxiety and ADHD can involve difficulty in managing emotions. This can manifest as sudden mood changes or heightened emotional responses to stressors.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Individuals with either condition may experience problems with sleep, such as difficulty falling asleep or restless sleep, often due to racing thoughts or physical restlessness.
  • Time Management: Both anxiety and ADHD can lead to struggles with organization and time management, often due to procrastination or difficulty in prioritizing tasks.
  • Hyperfocus on Worries or Interests: While anxiety often leads to hyperfocus on worries or fears, ADHD can cause hyperfocus on specific interests or activities. This intense concentration can sometimes be a common ground.
  • Impaired Social Interactions: Anxiety can cause withdrawal or avoidance in social situations due to fear or nervousness, while ADHD may lead to social difficulties due to impulsivity or misunderstanding social cues.
  • Fatigue: Both conditions can lead to mental or physical exhaustion. Anxiety can cause fatigue due to constant worry, while ADHD can lead to exhaustion from continuous activity or mental effort.

Thank you for taking the time to peruse and take in the information here. It could help you tremendously.

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