ADHD vs Anxiety – What’s the Difference?

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We hear friends and family casually say someone is “so ADD” or talking about “my anxiety” ahead of important decisions, presentations, interviews, and events. And that’s because ADHD and anxiety are two conditions that people commonly face today. A lot of people outside the world of psychology don’t understand that there’s actually a good bit of overlap between the two, making it a challenge to tell the difference between ADHD and anxiety. Before we delve into how the two are similar and different, let’s cover some basic groundwork about what each of these is.




Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as it was once called is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs the brain’s executive functioning. That’s a fancy way of saying that someone’s brain (CEO) is having a hard time carrying out its CEO tasks, such as planning, organizing, decision-making, task shifting, inhibition control, time management, and working memory.




Anxiety, on the other hand, is an intense, persistent, or excessive worry or fear that significantly affects someone’s daily life. There are several anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and OCD. To understand how anxiety and ADHD compare and contrast, we will use both of these concepts as general umbrella terms.


Differences Between ADHD and Anxiety


In the battle of anxiety vs. ADHD, let’s first talk about their differences:

  • ADHD can make it difficult for the individual to complete a variety of tasks. Schoolwork or professional tasks may come in late, include mistakes, or be only partially completed.
  • ADHD can cause forgetfulness. The person may lose track of where they left their keys, overlook due dates, and omit important appointments.
  • ADHD can make it hard to listen to and follow instructions. Because ADHD makes it hard to concentrate, it can impede how a person processes verbal information. Someone may walk away from a conversation, wracking their brain trying to remember and process everything they just talked about, especially if it included specific details or a large quantity of information.
  • People with ADHD may find it challenging to focus for long periods. Tasks at school or work that require several hours may seem like an uphill battle and take the individual with ADHD much longer to complete than it would for their non-ADHD peers.