06 May Adderall and Anxiety: Side Effects of ADHD Medication
Adderall is a medication that contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Individuals take Adderall to help manage the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Adderall helps people with:
- • Focus
- • Organization
- • Time management
- • Prioritization of tasks
- • Restlessness
Adderall is available in two forms: Adderall and Adderall XR (extended-release).
Who takes Adderall?
Doctors prescribe Adderall for adults and children who have an ADHD diagnosis.
Individuals may also take this medication to treat a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.
Is there anyone who should not take Adderall?
Before a doctor prescribes Adderall, they will go over a person’s medical and social history. Anyone who considers taking Adderall should let their doctor know:
- • If they have any health conditions in addition to ADHD
- • What over-the-counter and prescription medications they take, including herbal supplements and vitamins
- • If they use street drugs or alcohol or have used these substances in the past
While Adderall is beneficial for some people, it is not appropriate for everyone. Individuals should not take Adderall if they:
- • Are breastfeeding*
- • Do not have a prescription for the drug
- • Have a history of misusing alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs
In addition, anyone who takes Adderall should let their doctor know if they become pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
How does Adderall work?
Adderall increases the amount of two chemicals found in the brain: dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals play a role in focus, attention, mood, and memory.
Is Adderall addictive or habit forming?
Yes, Adderall can become addictive or habit-forming. The availability of Adderall can give some people the perception that it is “safe” for everyone.
Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication, and it is often misused by those who are prescribed the drug. They think that they can take Adderall in higher doses than prescribed or taken without a prescription.
Taking Adderall increases the presence of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is often called the “feel-good chemical” or the “happy hormone.”
Some people will experience a sense of pleasure when they take Adderall. Over time, a person may need to take more Adderall to achieve this “high.”
Is anxiety an Adderall side effect?
Yes, anxiety is a common Adderall side effect. People who take Adderall should seek immediate medical care if they experience these anxiety-related symptoms:*
- • Anxious feelings that do not go away
- • An inability to fall asleep or remain asleep
- • Hallucinations (seeing things or hearing things that are not real)
- • Paranoia (abnormal suspicion or an extreme mistrust of people and situations)
- • Feel as if their heart is pounding or racing
Adderall can also prompt a drug interaction and increase anxious or nervous feelings in people with an existing anxiety disorder. Some people who have an anxiety disorder do not have a formal diagnosis. Or, they are unaware that they even have the condition. Individuals who believe that they are experiencing symptoms of an anxiety or panic disorder should discuss the types of anxiety disorders with a doctor.
Is there a link between Adderall and anxiety?
The relationship between ADHD, Adderall, and anxiety in adults is complex. About half of all adults who have ADHD will also experience an anxiety disorder.*
Individuals who have ADHD and anxiety should let their doctor know. Adderall may not be an appropriate treatment. They may need to discuss other options to manage their ADHD.
Living with ADHD and an anxiety disorder
Life with ADHD and anxiety is often complex. For some people, their ADHD is the cause of their anxiety. For example, they may worry about:
- • Their ability to focus on and complete projects at home
- • Losing their job because they struggle with being on time for their shift
- • Relationship problems caused by their ADHD symptoms
- • Staying organized during college classes or job training
And yet, for other individuals, their anxiety disorder is a distinct and separate condition in addition to ADHD. Therapy can help people with ADHD identify the differences between anxiety caused by ADHD and an anxiety disorder. Questions to consider are:
- • What are the person’s concerns?
- • How often do they feel anxious?
- • Do they experience trouble sleeping?
Effective treatment will address an individual’s ADHD and anxiety. Individuals may work with their doctor to find an ADHD and anxiety medication plan that works for them.
How to manage anxiety caused by Adderall
Some people can lessen their anxiety through self-care methods and various lifestyle changes.
Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant, consuming too much can increase anxiety and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
Many everyday beverages and foods contain caffeine like coffee, chocolate, teas, and sodas. Individuals may underestimate their daily caffeine consumption due to the range of products containing the chemical.
Sleep. Both anxiety and ADHD can make it difficult to sleep at night. And not getting enough rest can make it challenging to focus the next day.
Many people with insomnia or another sleep disorder become anxious about falling asleep. This pattern then becomes an unhealthy cycle of sleepless nights.
Exercise. Regular physical activity is beneficial for both the body and the mind. Movement such as walking, dancing, or bike riding, is a natural mood booster and is beneficial for heart health. Exercise can also make it easier to fall asleep at night.
Meditation. Some people with ADHD become overwhelmed at the thought of quiet reflection. The idea is to start slowly, meditating for even five minutes can help ease anxiety.
Anyone new to meditation may find books or videos helpful to guide their practice.
Are there non-stimulant medications for ADHD?
Adderall is not the only medication used to treat ADHD in adults. There are several non-stimulant medications available.
Strattera. This non-stimulant drug is FDA-approved to treat ADHD. Strattera works by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in the brain.
Antidepressants. Several different antidepressant medications can help control the symptoms of ADHD. These drugs may not be as effective as Adderall. However, they may be a better choice for someone with anxiety or who is at risk for Adderall misuse.
These medications include tricyclic antidepressants, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – these drugs are not stimulants. It is less likely that someone would misuse them or become dependent on them.
Adderall misuse and anxiety: Treating the whole person
For some adults with ADHD, their anxiety and Adderall dependency become intertwined. Treating both conditions, while also managing ADHD symptoms is vital for recovery.