By Arlin Cuncic
Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD
August 15, 2018
Attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a condition sometimes associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD). People with ADHD suffer either with poor attention and distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, or both.
ADHD is the most common mental disorder in children and symptoms often last into adulthood. Without proper treatment, ADHD can result in low self-esteem, poor relationships, and problems at work or school.
Symptoms of Adult ADHD
In the United States, roughly 60% of kids with ADHD grow up to become adults with ADHD. That's around eight million adults, or 4% of the population. However, despite that figure, only about 20% of those adults have been diagnosed and/or treated and only a quarter of those get help for their ADHD.
One important factor in diagnosing adult ADHD is that your difficulties must go back to your childhood and they must interfere with more than one aspect of your life, such as work and relationships. If you have just recently started having these difficulties, your doctor will look at other explanations for the problems that you are having.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Organizational problems
- Forgetting appointments, activities, and deadlines
- Being impulsive
- Time management difficulties
- Difficulty focusing
- Problems following through on tasks
- Difficulty prioritizing
- Difficulty listening to instructions
- Mood swings
- Quick temper
- Restless or hyperactive
- Can't multitask
- Problems handling stress
- Difficulty remembering details
Causes of ADHD
Like many disorders, no one knows exactly what causes ADHD. However, there are factors that may influence its development, including the following:
- Central nervous system problems during development, like exposure to lead paint
Relationship Between SAD and ADHD
Results of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCSR) indicate that nearly half of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder. Research has also shown SAD to be one of the most common anxiety disorders in people with ADHD.
In addition, people who suffer from both ADHD and social anxiety disorder have been shown to develop SAD at an earlier age and to experience more severe anxiety symptoms than those who have social anxiety disorder alone. Having both of these conditions together can severely impair functioning.
Medication for Co-Occurring SAD and ADHD
Treatment of co-occurring SAD and ADHD is complicated by the fact that if you have social anxiety disorder, you respond less well to standard stimulant medications used in treating ADHD, such as Ritalin.
There is some evidence that non-stimulant medications such as Strattera (atomoxetine) are effective in treating ADHD if you have co-occurring social anxiety disorder. If medication is part of your treatment, your doctor will work with you to determine the best option for your situation.
Therapy for Co-Occurring SAD and ADHD
Therapy for ADHD includes methods also used for SAD such as behavioral therapy and social skills training. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is known to be particularly helpful in managing symptoms of both ADHD and social anxiety disorder.
Although similar methods may be used, the focus of therapy will vary depending on whether the ADHD or SAD symptoms are being targeted. If you have been diagnosed with both ADHD and social anxiety disorder, your doctor will determine the best course of therapy for addressing the symptoms of each disorder.
Your doctor will also determine which one, if either, is causing you the most significant distress when determining which one to treat first.
A Word From Verywell
If you are living with symptoms of social anxiety disorder, ADHD, or both conditions, it is important to seek help from your doctor. On the other hand, if you've already been diagnosed and have received treatment, you will want to focus on maintaining your treatment regimen and any self-help strategies that have been useful in the past.
You may also find it helpful to use the services of a coach to help you with day-to-day struggles related to ADHD.