Are You Worried and Distracted? Anxiety versus ADHD

Written by: Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D.
Are You Worried and Distracted? Anxiety versus ADHD

Current events are anxiety-provoking. Many are worrying so much that they can’t concentrate. While in a state of heightened worry, previously distractible individuals may struggle more than ever before. However, anxiety and ADHD are not the same and require different treatment. My clients often self-diagnose without a clear understanding of these differences.

Even experienced clinicians can have difficulty differentiating between anxiety and ADHD symptoms because of their partially overlapping nature. Heightened distractibility, poor organizational skills, and a tendency to make careless mistakes are hallmarks of an attention deficit. Individuals diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to experience emotional difficulties, including anxiety and depression. Conversely, those who suffer from periodic or consistent anxiety may struggle to concentrate, making it difficult to discern between the two.

A differentiating factor is usually time of symptom onset. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, such that at least some symptoms originate in childhood, whereas anxiety disorders may begin at any stage of life. An individual can also struggle with both disorders simultaneously. One set of symptoms can exacerbate the other.


Proper diagnosis is important for effective treatment. Contact Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D., at 678-474-6744 for more information.