Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
April 13, 2024

How ADHD Can Worsen Your Mental Health Woes (And What to Do About It)

ADHD can be a particularly tricky mental health issue to work with. Unfortunately, having ADHD can increase the risk of comorbid mental health issues like anxiety, depression, social anxiety, relationship problems, and others.

Why?

Experts aren’t entirely sure, but many believe it has to do with genetics, brain function (like executive functioning), and the costs that come with attempting to mask or cope with daily symptoms.

Understanding some of the mental health problems that might accompany your ADHD can help you name what’s going on in your life, feel less alone, and find the best treatment for you. 

ADHD and Anxiety and Depression, Oh My!... Plus 7 More.

Here are nine mental health problems that are frequently comorbid with an ADHD diagnosis.

  1. Anxiety disorders

Many of you probably know that anxiety and ADHD often co-occur. That’s true especially of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and also chronic anxiety, which may or may not be diagnosed as a “disorder.” The scientific community believes this connection is partly due to brain structure, chronic stress, and coping mechanisms developed to alleviate symptoms. 

  1. Depression

Managing the symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulties with concentration, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, can be incredibly stressful. Constantly struggling to focus, being forgetful, or facing challenges in social interactions can lead to frustration, low mood, and chronic stress, all of which are significant risk factors for depression.

  1. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)

ADHD impacts emotional regulation, including sensitivity to rejection. Rejection sensitivity dysphoria, or RSD, involves intense emotional reactions to perceived rejection or criticism. This has implications on ability to trust others and form lasting relationships. The intense fear of judgment can also lead to social anxiety and other problems. 

  1. Executive function challenges

Executive function dysregulation in ADHD can lead to difficulties in multiple important areas of life, including time management, focus, planning, and organization. These challenges may contribute to stress, anxiety, frustration, and a sense of overwhelm.

  1. Impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors

Impulsivity is a core symptom of ADHD and can lead to risky behaviors. Risky behaviors can range from cheating on a partner to unsafe sex practices to increased use of drugs and alcohol to impulse shopping. Speaking of impulse shopping…

  1. Financial issues

Impulsivity around your spending habits is one factor that can cause financial instability among people with ADHD. While financial concerns aren’t a mental health issue on their own, they contribute to a wide range of problems like anxiety, depression, arguments in relationships, and housing struggles.

  1. Emotional dysregulation

Ever find yourself swinging rapidly from one mood to another and back again faster than you can blink? If so, you’re not alone. ADHD is associated with difficulties in regulating emotions, which can snowball into – you guessed it – mood swings, anxiety, depression, issues in relationships, and more. 

  1. Self-esteem and self-worth

Managing ADHD symptoms, coping with societal expectations, and dealing with potential criticism for an entire lifetime has huge impacts on your beliefs about identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. 

  1. Social and relational challenges

Maintaining sustaining social connections is challenging for almost anyone these days. It can be especially tricky when you have ADHD. Problems focusing on conversations, interrupting, and social anxiety can all contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

ADHD and Anxiety and Depression

ADHD and Mental Health: What You Can Do About It All?

Learning about all the ways ADHD can contribute to shitty mental health can feel overwhelming and hopeless. As if ADHD isn’t difficult enough to manage on its own, now there are numerous other mental health issues piled on top of it?

This is why learning how to manage your ADHD symptoms and ease your daily stress is so important. Learning how to work with your ADHD instead of fighting a constant uphill battle against it has a big impact on not just your ADHD, but your overall mental health. 

Here are some ways to improve your mental health with ADHD.

Improve your executive functioning, improve your mental health. 

What works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else, so you might need to try a few different tactics out here. Some tools to help with executive functioning I recommend are:

  • Use timers! For everything! Whether you need an extra push for an unpleasant task or you need to remember to switch your laundry, setting a timer can help.

Whenever possible, automate the everyday processes in your life. Automate bill pay. Implement healthy habits (this is its own form of automation!) Building in some level of routine and consistency lets you off the hook when it comes to remembering important things, like paying rent or automatically transferring some of your paycheck into a high yield savings account every month.

It also allows your brain to delegate energy and resources elsewhere, like your hobbies or relationships or job. 

Stress management

As I’ve already talked about, anxiety and ADHD are linked. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you likely have extra stressors in your life that are tough to deal with. Managing stress is particularly difficulty with ADHD because, well, there are just so many stressors. Learning healthy coping mechanisms can help decrease your stress levels over time. These might look like:

  • Self-compassion techniques
  • Relaxation practices
  • Movement and exercise
  • Seeking out community
  • Getting enough sleep

Therapy and support

Finding support from someone (or a group) who understands ADHD is key. One way to do this is to work with a therapist (like me) who understands the unique needs of the ADHD population.

Therapy for Poor Mental Health and ADHD

If you’re feeling frustrated by all your mental health woes and want extra support learning how to manage them, I’m here to help. 

I know how isolating and maddening it can feel when your mental health problems never seem to stop. Together, we’ll help you find relief. We’ll walk through beneficial behavior changes, teach you how to form healthy habits, and find ways to dial down your daily stressors. You’ll learn how to manage even your most challenging mental health symptoms and find lasting relief from ADHD and anxiety and depression. 

Learn more about my therapy services (including EMDR and talk therapy) if you’re located in Idaho or Iowa. For all other locations, check out my coaching services. My coaching program offers all the same expertise, tools, and guidance as therapy in a more direct and goal-oriented approach that you can benefit from anywhere. 

Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if we’re a good fit. Let’s start building a better future together. 

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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