I’ve heard a lot of people say that “ADHD isn’t real,” and actually, I think that’s a really interesting point. Coming from a person who has ADHD, I can understand that point, and agree with it to some extent. I do believe that there are different learning styles, but to label ADHD as a “learning disability” just seems fundamentally wrong to me. I mean, 6.1 million American children have been diagnosed with the disorder, so at that point…is it even a disorder? Or just a vastly versatile and large demographic of people who all learn in a particular way which is different than the norm?
There isn’t a right answer to that question- at least, not one that I’ve come across so far. For all practical purposes, I do tell people I have ADHD when needed, but in the back of my mind, I can’t help but feel silly for even needing to label myself. After all, we all experience ADHD symptoms to some extent, and the numbers are continuing to grow. Why should we, the people diagnosed with this “disorder,” have to medicate ourselves and change ourselves to fit the mainstream society? Why is society not changing to be all-encompassing and open-minded to different learning styles?
That was a little bit of a tangent (and it’s mostly aimed at the American educational system), so let’s get back to the main point here: ADHD and anxiety disorders. Do they really go hand in hand? More or less, yeah.
In fact, ADHD is one of the most common disorders that usually go hand in hand with other conditions. ADHD and OCD tend to go together (I have both), and of course, depression and anxiety can correlate with ADHD as well. Generally, I would say my OCD, ADHD, and anxiety all feed off of each other, almost in a cycle. When I can’t focus, or I can’t interpret what’s going on around me, my fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, and I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I have a debilitating desire to control my environment. When I’m constantly trying to control everything around me, my world is out of focus. And so on, and so forth.
It is definitely an unfair cycle, but luckily, I have medications like Lexapro and Lorazepam to alleviate my symptoms. Medication obviously isn’t for everyone, but for me, I’ve found it to be extremely helpful and even critical to my mental health. Medications won’t banish all your problems and symptoms, but they do make an extremely positive impact, in most cases. I still struggle with anxiety, and occasional OCD symptoms, but they’re manageable and nowhere near as extreme as they once were.
Interestingly, even though I do have ADHD, I’m a generally high-performing student with decent grades. I’ve figured out a way to do well in classes without the help of anyone else, so taking Adderall or something similar has never felt like something I needed. Sure, doctors and neuropsych doctors have recommended it to me, but it’s never something I’ve wanted to pursue (and probably never will). It kind of ties back into ADHD not being a “real thing”- why should I have to change, and literally alter my brain chemistry, just because society doesn’t want to change the educational structure to fit all learning styles?
On the flip side, I do believe in treating my anxiety with medication, because that is something I haven’t found an alternative way to work around. Therapy doesn’t really work treating my anxiety, and neither does deep-breathing, meditation, exercising, etc. No, the only way I have been able to reduce my anxiety long-term is through medication, and I’m totally okay with that. The changes I’ve seen in my attitude and energy levels are undeniable, and my self-esteem has also greatly improved in the two years I’ve been on Lexapro.
In a nutshell, what I’m really trying to say is, just do what’s best for your individual case. If you’re struggling with a tangle of emotional issues, you might not want to completely rule out the correlation between anxiety and ADHD. Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with one or the other, it increases the chances that there is something else going on there, too. I’m generally not a big fan of labels, but if a label is going to be useful to me and actually make my life easier, yeah, I’ll accept all these medical terms as a part of my mental health identity. I have ADHD, GAD, specific phobia, and OCD, and I’m completely, utterly happy with myself. No matter what you’re struggling with, I hope you can remember to love yourself, too.
If you’re interested in me doing more of these personal-mental health stories, let me know! I love to be completely open about my health history, because I’ve come to accept it and love it as a part of who I am. I also feel like mental health is still not talked about enough, so if I have the opportunity to make a difference, I will. Thank you for reading!
Coming up next: Switching Majors, My 20th Birthday, and Other Life Updates