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Anxiety and ADHD

Anxiety & ADHD in my 7 yo

Recently we had a full psych profile done on our 7 yo daughter. What we found out surprised us. Double diagnosis - anxiety & ADHD. She had been taking Focalin, but the person that did the evaluation thinks the Focalin may be increasing her anxiety so we are going to try something else. The pediatrician immediately suggested Prozac or something similar. I’m not a huge fan of antidepressants in kids. Does anyone have exp with this approach - good or bad? Are there not ADHD medications that help with anxiety too? Please help!


My daughter, now 14, has adhd/anxiety.  We received the initial diagnosis when she was in 3rd grade (age 8) as anxiety only.  Through the 3rd grade year, we tried 3 different anxiety meds, lexapro, and two others i can’t remember now.  In our case, none worked well and additionally caused side affects that were worse than the initial anxiety (lack of inhibition) - so we eventually stopped all meds - and worked with counseling alone.  She worked through the initial onset of anxiety, but in 6th grade, had another bout.  That time, at age 11, Lexapro worked well (but only the brand name, unfortunatley, not the generic).  In addition, the diagnosis changed and she was also treated with Focalin XR / clonidine for adhd.

I think that a really good therapist - one that has experience working with children / anxiety can be very beneficial. 

In addition, we found exercise to be super beneficial.  Especially outdoors exercise.  Depending upon how anxious she is, it may have to be something that you do right along with her - like biking/walking together.  We found an hour a day helped a lot.  Even a 10 minute walk in the morning helped get the day started off better. 

It’s been my experience that the docs want to treat the anxiety first and then the adhd because, as you said, the adhd meds can increase anxiety. 

Another good source of help is your pharmacist.  My next door neighbor had a daughter who just received her doctorate in pharmacy and works at a childrens hospital - she’s been very helpful to talk with and has access to research that parents typically do not.

I wish the best for you and your daughter!

Posted by SJF04 on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:07pm

We have been through the same thing with our daughter.  She is 11.  She was on Focalin and then at age 10 was put on Prozac for the anxiety.  I was devastated over it.  We just weaned her off in the middle of March.  However, about three weeks ago she started being very anxious again… wouldn’t leave my side in the house, wants me to sleep with her, was afraid to ride her bike all of a sudden.  I put her right back on the Prozac and it is helping with all of this.  When she first went on the Prozac, we started taking her to a counselor… that was helpful but we stopped last fall because we and the counselor thought she was doing well.  As soon as these new symptoms cropped up I scheduled an appointment with the counselor again so we will be starting that next week.  I really want to get things worked out for her so she does not have to be on Prozac much longer.  Although, I try to remind myself… it is a quality of life issue for her… if the Prozac helps make her life better then that is what we will do.  I guess it all comes down to weighing the pros vs the cons.

Posted by LizzieD on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:17pm

p.s.  I also have been trying to make sure she is getting some exercise every day to help alleviate the anxiety.  I really do believe in the benefits of exercise to mental health!

Posted by LizzieD on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:18pm

Thank you both so much! She has been on Focalin and it made a world of difference from a focus perspective. She is active, but could do more - I need to make the time to do it with her. She doesn’t like doing things solo. If she is engaged, she’s golden. I’m thinking of telling the Ped let’s find a med for the ADHD and try some other non-drug options for the anxiety. At least for now. We are starting counseling as well.  There is so much to learn. Do either of you use any supplements? Omega-3s?

Posted by sv3 on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:26pm

Dear Sv3, I read from a psychiatrist that there is no “free lunch” when taking anti-depressants, child or adult. I have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and ADD (inattentive). I have chosen the natural approach, by changing diet, eliminating sugars and fast carbs, like bread, pasta, white rice, crackers, cookies, etc. Also no caffeine products like sodas. Then natural supplements like liquid Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc, plus liquid B vitamins, and the supplement called ADAPT 232, which is a combination of three roots: Rhodiola rosea, Shizandra and Eleuterococus, or Siberian ginseng. This latter natural supplement is working wonderful, but I’m taking a fraction of a capsule per day, because it’s strong. Trial and error, until you get the exact dose that works, and with no side effects in the short and long terms. Exercise is a must for everybody with chronic anxiety. Good luck

Posted by Zatara on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:59pm

Thank you Zatara.

Posted by sv3 on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:02pm

We havne’t used supplements other than vitamin D - although I’m not against them. 

I know exactly what you are feeling. It is such a huge decision to medicate your child.  We eventually had to make a decision quickly because the anxiety become so bad she refused to go to school.  That’s the point at which we ran out of options (6th grade).  She literally didn’t want to leave my side day or night.

She’s much bigger now and always takes her meds in the morning - I don’t have to encourage her at all.  She’s very vocal about not wanting to be back in the place she was at in 6th grade.  That makes me feel as if we made the right decision.

I don’t know if this will be important or not, but something else I learned is that my daughter’s anxiety fed off of mine.  it became a circle.  She would get anxious, which made me anxious, which made her more anxious.  Therefore, I had to learn to stay in the moment and not become anxious myself.  Easier said that done when you have a child refusing to go to school!  smile

Posted by SJF04 on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:21pm

There is so much info out there. When I handed my Ped the info about the 7 different kinds of ADD/ADHD he said Oh, there’s 7 kinds now? His reaction really put me off. His son has ADHD along with anxiety as well so I felt like his sarcasm was a bit much. Look doc, I’m doing the best I can here with the overload of info. The ;east you can do is help me weed through it! I’m thinking a Psych may be more helpful to me.  I’m really feeling overwhelmed with it all, but I’d rather deal with it now than when school rolls back around in August. What is beneficial about Vit-D to ADHD/Anxiety?

Posted by sv3 on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:31pm

I have been diagnosed with ADHD and general anxiety disorder, I refuse to take any medication (tried an antianxiety, and didn’t like my flat no emotional status).  Now, I simply manage my symptoms with a balance of whole foods, curtailing as much sugar and caffine as possible (I am not a saint) and using certified pure, therapeutic grade essential oils that are known to increase focus and reduce anxiety and stress.  These oils are not the same as the ones at the health food stores.

I like this approach, because it has no side effects other than helping me maintain a healthy weight, and decreasing/eleminating my symptoms. 

Some of the oils I find most beneficial:  Vetiver, Lavender, Sandlewood, Frankencense, Marjoriam, Cilantro, Basil and a few proprietary blends that I buy from a certain company - Balance, Serenity and InTune.

I have seen great at work (and heard of great results when used by children) with the blend InTune. 

The best thing of all, is there are no side effects with the oils as there are with the traditionsl medications, and no long term usage problems.

I’m sure you are researching solutions, which is why you are on this website.  Good luck with your search, you will find what is best for your child!


Posted by Rrite on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:13am

Thank you rj!

Posted by sv3 on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:19am

No impact to adhd/anxiety for adhd.  Both my kids and I were vit d deficient; therefore, we all had to start taking supplements.

I agree - if you have access to a pediatric psychiatrist, that is the best route to go.  In our area, pediatricians won’t treat add/adhd - they refer to ped psych.  The ped psych will likely have a requirement that you see a therapist in his/her office as well.  That way they can keep track of how things are going.  Also, we had one visit with a pediatric psychologist - and she was very very good - confirmed the diagnosis.  However, there are very very few in our area and very hard to get into.

It takes a good 8 weeks to know for sure if the anxiety meds are working as they need to.  It takes a long time for the meds to build up to the right level.  It’s easy to tell very quickly if the adhd meds are working; however, it’s a much longer process to determine if the anxiety meds are working.

Take care!

Posted by SJF04 on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:31am

My daughter was also diagnosed with both at the age of 9.5.  She was on a non-stimulant for about two years and then with hormones and body changes at age 12 - the anxiety really got bad.  I’ve also noticed this in myself.  I am much more anxious about a week before my cycle.  Hers was in control in previous years due in part to intense competitive sports.  Yet, she no longer wants to play many sports.

Eventually we had to put her on an anti-anxiety med and decided to take her off the non-stimulant because the combo of the two was making her angry and agitated.  Also, when we first started the anxiety med, her grades went down.  Come to find out later after her therapist told us that sometimes if the anxiety meds are a bit too strong, kids start not caring about anything.  We bumped back her anti anxiety dosage and now she is doing so much better.  I’m starting to get my sweet girl back.  I can now take her to a restaurant without her feeling like she’s going to have a panic attack.

Please know, that I really believe anxiety was there with her all along, but when there’s a change in schools and hormones, and middle school is much tougher socially, listen to your kids.

Posted by AnxiousladyAdd on Jun 17, 2014 at 4:29pm

And yes, find a pediatric psychiatrist and ped therapist through word of mouth if you can.  It makes a big difference!

Posted by AnxiousladyAdd on Jun 17, 2014 at 4:30pm

Hi sv3!

Most ADHD specialists will recommend staying on the stimulant medication if you see improvement in ADHD symptoms. Many add a 2nd medication for the anxiety.

My son is very sensitive to medication and has tried 3 SSRIs, all with very bad reactions. Prozac was by far the worst and destroyed our lives and nearly our family for 3 months. However, I know of many kids who very successfully take Prozac. I’m only relating my experience to convey that you have to be vigilant when trying antidepressants in children. Very careful. I personally would look at other options before giving my child an SSRI, knowing what I do now.

I agree with many other commentors who recommended seeing a specialist. General pediatricians do not know enough about psychotropic medications. Seek a pediatric ADHD specialist and move your child’s ADHD care over to them. It is especially important when you are dealing with multiple diagnoses.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:56pm

Thank you! One advantage I have in all this is our Ped has a child on an SSRI and ADHD medication so he is very familiar with my child’s diagnosis. So thankful. However, as we all know one size does not fit all.  He wants to try a different ADHD med and see if that addresses the anxiety, for which I was relieved. I hate to say it, and I know it works for some so no offense meant, I don’t want my child to be on an antidepressant at age 7, even if for anxiety. Hopefully this will work.

Posted by sv3 on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:04pm

And yes, find a pediatric psychiatrist and ped therapist through word of mouth if you can.  It makes a big difference!

Posted by AnxiousladyAdd on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:09pm

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