To a girl with ADHD, the knowledge that everyone is watching can lead to a near-constant state of anxiety. Anxiety and ADHD often go hand in hand. Here’s how to help in parenting girls with ADHD.
Sweaty palms, stomach in knots, deep dread in your soul.
Everyone feels anxious every now and then, but for a child with ADHD, anxiety is a too-familiar feeling.
A child with ADHD knows they have trouble with impulse control and blurting out the first thing that comes into their head. They know they will probably hurt someone’s feelings, get in trouble, or laugh too loud at a joke.
Suddenly, all eyes are on them and they are not kind eyes.
ADHD and Anxiety in Girls- How You Can Help as a Parent
How can you avoid feeling anxious and worried when you know you are different?
As always here at ADHDSupergirls, I am here to let you know that these are my own experiences and feelings. I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional, just a person with ADHD and a parent to daughters with ADHD.
If you suspect your daughter might have ADHD, anxiety, or both, please speak with a medical professional. Here are some resources to use.
Is it Anxiety or ADHD?
ADHD and anxiety often go hand-in-hand in a girl (or adult) with ADHD, leading to an emotional, stressful journey that makes social situations, school, or work difficult to manage.
Many parents are surprised that their daughters suffer from anxiety caused by ADHD. Always speak with a medical professional about any changes in your daughter’s behavior.
The Resarch on ADHD and Anxiety in Girls
ADHD is classified as a disorder of attention and executive function, but an anxiety disorder is classified as a person who feels stressed, uneasy, and even frightened in normal, non-threatening situations.
While ADHD and anxiety are two different conditions, they can play off one another. Knowing that you are impulsive and likely to say the wrong thing can create anxiety. Constant anxiety can make it harder to concentrate.
According to Psych Central, about 40 percent of children and adults with ADHD also suffer from anxiety, either mildly or as a full-blown disorder.
Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist specializing in ADHD told Psych Central,
“People with ADHD, especially when untreated, are more likely to feel overwhelmed and to have more things fall through the cracks which evokes more frequent negative situations—others are angry with them, they feel disappointed in themselves.”
Girls with ADHD are also typically more sensitive than others, which means they feel emotions more strongly, including feelings of anxiety.
What I found most surprising is how closely ADHD and anxiety disorders are related. A study from 2007 published in Biological Psychiatry found there was a surprising link between ADHD and anxiety disorders like OCD.
This study found that when family members were diagnosed with either ADHD or OCD, the risk of another family member having either ADHD or OCD were increased. The risk of diagnosis for ADHD was also elevated in individuals already diagnosed with ADHD and vice versa.
In other words, if you have a family history of ADHD, you are also more likely to have a relative or two with OCD (which is true in our family). Another study found that about 30 percent of people with OCD also have ADHD.
What to Do If You Think You ADHD Daughter May Have Anxiety
If you suspect your daughter might have an anxiety disorder on top of ADHD (you can check for signs of anxiety disorders here), get evaluated by a qualified psychologist as soon as possible. Treating hidden anxiety with ADHD medication, for example, can actually make anxiety problems worse.
However, even girls who don’t have a full-blown anxiety disorder tend to be anxious if they have ADHD. This can appear either as social anxiety, constant restlessness, or low self-esteem.
Girls with ADHD are also more likely to be depressed and may try self-harm, as their impulsive, risky nature does not tell them that self-harm is an incredibly bad idea.
Don’t dismiss any comments that your daughter makes about self-harm. Speak to a therapist or other qualified professional as soon as possible if your child continues to make statements about self-harm or depression. Here is the national suicide prevention hotline.
How to Help Your Daughter Ease Her Anxiety
Parents can help their daughter with ADHD work through some of the mild anxiety triggers at home.
Common anxiety triggers include:
- Fearing the loss of friends
- Fearing they will say the wrong thing
- Fearing other kids will think they are weird
- Fearing they won’t do well in school
- Fearing they won’t do well in life
If your daughter mentions something about feeling anxious, spend a few minutes talking about it. When your child is in a solid emotional state, you can discuss strategies to prevent these fears from occurring.
Implement these strategies at home or school:
- Plan conversation topics
- Wait 10 seconds before speaking
- Discuss strategies to make studying easier or to prevent procrastination
- Discuss appropriate and inappropriate topics for conversation
- Talk about what to say if a friend is unkind
ADHD Essentials for Girls
Modify these tools to work with the needs of the girl you’re caring for, as not all girls with ADHD are alike.
Here are some of the ADHD essentials I use in our house:I used this Good behavior tracker to help my girls keep track of their emptions and feelings which helps them improve awareness and reduce impulsivness.
These brain break activities are perfect for girls with ADHD who are in elementary school. We used them between homework sessions.
Here are some things that my ADHD girls find helpful at home and in the classroom:
- Desk lamp (this one with storage is awesome and so is this cat storage lamp)
- ADHD-friendly planner
- Closed storage drawers
- Comfy chair (some kids also benefit from a wiggle chair, mine don’t, they just fall over)
- Weighted lap blanket
- Basic writing tools
- Task timer
- Non-distracting fidget toys
- ADHD sensory tools
- Large, simple calendar
- White noise machine
- Sticky arrow flags
My Favorite Books on ADHD and Anxiety
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
ADHD children who also struggle with anxiety require a slightly different approach. If your ADHD child struggles with anxiety, you might find these books and resources helpful.
A child with ADHD must learn to deal with anxiety and other emotional upsets on their own, and these books help kids do that in a non-judgmental, super-helpful way.
- Starving the Anxiety Gremlin: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Anxiety Management for Young People
- The Misdiagnosed Child: Answers about child anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD, and more from a mother who’s been there
- The Anxiety Cure for Kids: A Guide for Parents and Children
- How to Survive Child Anxiety and ADHD
- Understanding Girls with ADHD
The anxious girl with ADHD is not alone. Although it is not discussed as much as the inattentive part of ADHD, anxiety is common and your child is not unusual if they suffer from anxiety in addition to ADHD.
With the correct strategies, you can overcome anxiety.
More Resources for Parents of Girls with ADHD
How to Set Up an ADHD-Friendly Study Space for Girls
ADHD Tools that Help Girls Learn
Non-Distracting Fidget Bracelets for Girls with ADHD
100 Questions & Answers About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Women and Girls