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Anxiety and ADHD

Anxiety or ADHD?

For over two years we’ve thought my son had ADHD (he’s six now).  He has been on various medications, the latest being Vyvanse. Vyvanse has had the least amount of side effects but we always thought it made him manic, though the psychiatrist just said that was his ADHD. It wasn’t until taking him off that for two weeks over Christmas that we finally had our real son back and I hardly see any of the ADHD symptoms anymore, as well as the agitation and manicness has gone away completely.

The reason I’m posting in anxiety is this is what we’re seeing and I want to see what other people think. 

At home over the last two weeks our son has been calm, semi-focused, kind, loving, extremely well-behaved, helpful, creative.  The one thing we do see is when he gets around his peers he gets overly excited, starts being really impulsive and his behavior starts deteriorating.  He starts saying things he never says around us, starts trying to be overly funny.  We’ve also noticed that he’s worrying a lot, seems sad sometimes for no reason and just seems anxious.  So as you can imagine this will not go over well in a school like setting.

We’ve always wondered if he had anxiety with ADHD or just anxiety and that’s what causes him to over act in social situations.  At this point though the side effects from Vyanse are too much for us to outweigh the benefits at school. 

I guess my question is…could anxiety cause this type of behavior around peers?  It’s not a sad, anxious, worry like behavior, it’s most or a ramped up, overly hyper, impulsive behavior around his peers.  Around us, his family, he’s just fine and all that goes away.


Don’t know if this will help but it sounds a lot like me! Iam 53,my Mom hated it when I acted like that.  She wondered why I would act one way around family and another way in a very stimulating situation. Those situations excited me much.  They still do to this day.  The situation of being around peers, loud people, acting up, laughing when you need to behave.  I knew what behavior was expected around family, the non ADHD people.  They were and still are quite boring!  It wasn’t that I was trying to be mean to my family, but I had stuff bottled up so tight on the right way to be, that I had to release it and around friends and peers was the way I did it.  I love it when we are around friends to this day that as my husband puts it, you all are just crazy!  How many times have I heard that? I love being called that! No one can ever call me a bore!  At work I have an energy that people enjoy!  I try to put smiles on all faces.  I work at an elementary school.  I really have a connection with the ADHD kids!  I love their energy. While the other adults are making them sit still, making them stay in for recess, I just cry inside and tell them this is the worst thing you could do.    Any way. I just ramble on, but yes I have social anxiety also.  Could this be what this behavior is called? I’m not sure but I do think it is a lot of ADHD.  We have an abundance of energy and while Iam at home it gets bottled up. Growing up no one ever heard of ADHD.  I was diagnosed last fall after getting in a car accident.  I am in therapy. I have 53 years that Iam learning about just now .  Let your son have an outlet an tell him it’s ok.  My behavior was never ok.  I understand about there is a time and a place. Yes there is.  I need to quit.

Posted by wilma 2 on Dec 31, 2012 at 8:24pm

Thank you so much.  That helps me tremendously.  I always try to put myself in my son’s mind and feel what he’s feeling but that’s impossible since I’ve never had ADHD or anxiety issues.

I think with maturity he’ll learn how to be funny, energetic AND appropriate.  But at this age those things get him in trouble at school. Is it worthy of medication?  I don’t know but I do know he’s stayed on blue at school for months when vyvanse was working and his self-esteem soared.  He hates getting in trouble and it breaks my heart to see him try so hard and fail.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Dec 31, 2012 at 8:41pm

If meds help, espically with self esteem than use them . Being a success at school is so important.  I have NO self esteem what so ever.  I wish I would of had a mom like you!!!

Posted by wilma 2 on Dec 31, 2012 at 8:50pm

They do help but the side effects make our evenings, mornings and weekends a nightmare.  Even he says he likes the way he feels better off them but then I know a lot of people don’t like the way they feel on medications that may help.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Dec 31, 2012 at 8:58pm

This is only a personal opinion (not necessarity advice) but I would NOT give my son something that made him manic. I don’t remember you saying that Vyvanse helps him in school & with his peers. But if it isn’t helping him in those situations, and is hurting him at home, what is the point in taking it. This is a 6 yr old child, who (in my non-professional opinion) seems to have social anxiety. If it were my son I would try to monitor his social & school time to determine what exactly is happening, and whether his behavior is actually detrimental to him or others. I would report the actual symptoms to his doctor ALONG WITH the lack of symptoms at home. If the doctor (AND YOU)still feel he should be medicated, I would investigate the medication thoroughly and carefully monitor him for side effects. I wish him the best.

Posted by chillyla on Dec 31, 2012 at 10:26pm

Vyvanse does help him at school, it calms him down and keeps him focused and from being impulsive.  There are major issues at school to himself, the teacher and his classmates when he can’t control his impulsiveness.  At the very beginning we were seeing the behavior at home and school but now we just see it around his peers.
I think we are going to take a break from vyvanse and see what the behavior is at school, perhaps we need to revisit an anxiety medication rather than an ADHD med. 
My main question was to those with anxiety disorders…does his social behavior sound like anxiety or ADHD? 
Thank you!

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Dec 31, 2012 at 10:47pm

We have checked him for mineral defiencies and he always comes up fine.  We did have him on a magnesium supplement for awhile but for bowel issues and it did not seem to help his hyperactivity.  With the B vitamins we’ve actually found they make him extremely hyper and active.  I was giving him an ADHD homepathic supplement and I was wondering why it was making him extremely aggitated, finally I figured out it was the excessive B in it.  When I stopped that his hyperactivity decreased.  I’ve even had to decrease his multivitamin because I can’t find one without B in it. 
I would love to find something homepathic.  I am trying a new thing that helps stress, we’ll see if it helps!

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 01, 2013 at 2:23am

FWIW, I spent nearly thirty years thinking my symptoms where caused by anxiety.  What I now know is that, like most people with ADHD, anxiety exasperates my symptoms.

Posted by ipsofacto on Jan 01, 2013 at 11:01am

Mitzi, he is on fish oil.  We’ve tried amino acids too.

Ipsofacto:  thank you so much for that post, that is exactly what we’re seeing.  In a quiet and non-stimulating environment you can hardly tell he has adhd.  But put him in a group of peers, an exciting movie, or eating at a restaurant and he is a totally different person.

I like what another poster said, to let him have an outlet for his silliness.  He doesn’t really have one right now, we need to fix that.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 01, 2013 at 6:00pm

To those with adhd if there was a medication that helped you tremendously at school/work but made you manic-like in the mornings, evenings and even weekends would you want to be on it?  It’s a inner battle I constantly deal with when making decisions for a six-year old.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 01, 2013 at 6:02pm

We’ve tried bipolar medication like depakote and those actually made his agitation, extreme talkativeness (talking non-stop for 2-3 hours!), hyperactivity, mind racing much worse.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 01, 2013 at 6:03pm

HI!  I was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago and I am 58 years old!!  Previous to that, a Psychiatrist always thought that I had an anxiety disorder.  He never even considered my having ADHD or ADD!!  One of my questions would be if your son is seeing a Psychiatrist who is well learned in ADD/ADHD or if he is seeing a Pediatrician or a Family doctor???  I think that if he was thoroughly evaluated by a Child’s Psychiatrist, that your answer may be clearer.  However, I think that your son may have ADHD and perhaps anxiety.  The latter can be a co-morbid condition, and like someone else said, having an anxiety disorder can intensify the ADD/ADHD behavior(s).  I take Celexa 20 mg. daily, and I’m on Adderall XR 30 mg. in the early morning, with Adderall 5 mg. at Noon.  The Adderall has really had a calming effect on me, and I don’t feel hyper or manic at all.  Everyone is an individual and needs to have medicaitons tapered to his/her personal circumstances.  I know that 6 years of age may be a little young to be on medications, but sometimes, only low doses of any medication, may be enough to let your son enjoy his friends, and have a healthy self-esteem.  I wish you lots of Good Luck, in your exploration, of this topic.

Posted by RJMarkovchick on Jan 02, 2013 at 8:16am

Thank you!  It is a child psychiatrist.  He has tried all the stimulants and most made him angry and dark.  He’s on the lowest dose possible of vyvanse and even that makes him manic after being on it a few weeks.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 02, 2013 at 8:26am

My daughter, 12 1/2, has both adhd and anxiety.  Was diagnosed with anxiety in 3rd grade and adhd in 6th grade.  What I can tell you about anxiety, is that it is episodic.  It comes, and then it goes.  The symptoms that appear are episodic as well.  For us, anxiety looks like 1) not wanting to be separated from mom/dad, 2) not wanting to go to school, 3) not wanting to come into contact with germs, 4) not wanting to take tests, 5) not wanting to leave home, 6) not being able to stop negative thoughts, 7) not wanting to be in a place where there was a quick exit - think movie theatre.  Sings of anxiety are also episodic - for a time you might see too much hand washing, a cough or throat clearing that appears during times of anxiety, lots of tears, stomach aches, headaches, school refusal.  I do see my daughter getting too ramped up, but I attribute that to her adhd as opposed to her anxiety.  For us anyway, anxiety tends to hold her back, would make her not want to participate in activities or be around friends.  I do think that the appearance of anxiety (for my daughter) at age 8 was different than the appearance of anxiety at age 11 or 12.  Best of luck to you.

Posted by SJF04 on Jan 03, 2013 at 9:08pm

I’m sorry, I should have added one more thing.  At age 12 1/2, my daughter is able to tell me very clearly that she wants to be on her meds.  She wants to succeed.  At age 8, she was unable to articulate those feelings.  In 6th grade, she went from failing grades, to having grades of A’s and B’s.  She is torn, thinking that we like the daughter on meds, better than the daughter not on meds; however, we have a very good therapist that she works with that helps put things in perspective.  In addition, my daughter is very senstive to meds and while nothing appeared to work for her at age 8, with several more years of maturity, there are now meds that work for her very well.

Posted by SJF04 on Jan 03, 2013 at 9:15pm

My son has told me he likes he the way he feels better off meds but he doesn’t get the grades/learning thing yet and that definitely goes down hill when he’s off.  He’s only in first grade, I know he’ll feel differently later.  But he knows what the side effects are and I know he doesn’t like them.

Thanks for your replies.  After reading that I think his anxiety may be more ADHD related.  His is fear at night, fear over movies he usually enjoys (i.e. Brave), fear about how he looks to his friends, worrying about his friends not playing with him, worry or sad over things that usually don’t bother him. It definitely comes and goes.

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 03, 2013 at 9:31pm

This probably adds nothing new, but I’m in agreement with the ADHD diagnosis for your son, mainly because I was diagnosed a few years ago (at age 53) with “ADD with agitation.”  This is how the diagnosis was worded.  I also have OCD and depression as co-morbid conditions, and maybe one learning disability, but I never gave much thought to my social anxiety.  When alone I am calmness itself, but around others I immediately feel anxious, agitated and uncomfortable, worried about how others see me, whether I’ll say or do the wrong thing, etc.  I’ve always been this way.  I was often scolded as a child for being “silly” around others. I think I did it mainly because I was so uncomfortable and clueless I forgot how to behave.  I take Adderall and a small dose of Vyvanse, plus Fish Oil and an antidepressant, Pristiq.  I am one of those who have had difficulty being helped much by meds, though I know they do help somewhat.  Being diagnosed so late in life has added to the difficulty, I think. 

I agree with the others, though, you may need to try and keep trying more types of meds at various dosages for your son—i’ts a tricky business.  But, also remember he is only 6 and will probably “grow into” the right meds in time, as well as being better able to articulate what kind of help he wants and needs the most.  I also agree that you should let him be “silly” sometimes, without scolding or disapproving.  I was always made to feel ashamed of it, which was a big blow to my self-worth. 

It sounds as though you’ve got on the right track, though.  I wish you and your son the best.


Posted by Mara on Jan 04, 2013 at 12:00am

If your child is getting excessively hyper on B vitamins, which I assume contain a good amount of folic acid, you really need to get him checked for MTFHR gene mutation and homocysteine level.  Its complicated but simply put, people with this gene mutation cannot use regular folic acid, which affects their neurological status significantly.  They need “broken down” folic acid called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (easily purchased supplement).  Sometimes, they get WORSE when supplemented with regular folic acid, because their body simply cannot use it and it causes detoxification problems.  You will need to google all this or message me for more.  My son is homozygous (positive for 2 copies) of the C677t MTHFR gene mutation - so I learned a lot about it !!  smile

Posted by gander627 on Jan 04, 2013 at 6:08pm

Oh and if stimulants don’t work with your child, you need to have him further evaluated for other disorders, such as Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, etc, just to be safe !  It never ever hurts to get a second opinion and a great doctor never refuses to look at someone elses opinion !

Posted by gander627 on Jan 04, 2013 at 6:10pm

The stimulants do work in that they really help him sit still, be calm, and curb the impulsiveness.  They help a little with focus but not as much as I thought they would. Of course he’s on the lowest dose possible and even that was halved at times.

The side effects of all stimulants are either anger/darkness or extreme moods and manic like behavior.

We’ve had two opinions and both said ADHD.  He’s had all the tests too and his scores are on the mid-high end of the ADHD spectrum.  I’ve always wonderered about bipolar but the depression is just not there (I lived with a bipolar family member so very familiar with those swings).  If it is there he masks it very well.

I will definitely look into that MTFHR testing, what treatment did you follow after finding that out?

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 04, 2013 at 7:11pm

Just looked at foods high in folic acid…interesting!  Corn makes his ears turn bright red and he hates anything citrus.  What kind of signs like that do you see with your child?

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Jan 04, 2013 at 7:13pm

you have to give them 5-methyltetrahydrofolate instead of regular folic acid….thats all about 800 mcg or 1000 mcg daily.

Posted by gander627 on Jan 24, 2013 at 5:00am

ADHD and anxiety go hand and hand.  My son has been struggling with ADHD meds. since he was 8 and he is now 12.  We have tried every medication out there for ADHD and he always had bad side effects with them.  We just started the Daytrana patch 40mg and he has been on Zoloft 50mg for awhile. This seems to be working.  The only side effect he has is his skin turns red with the patches but goes away the next day.  I alternate from side to side.  Your son sounds like he has ADHD with anxiety.  My son has anxiety and he was just like that. He worried all the time and couldn’t stop talking about it, cried over nothing.  Was sad and depressed at times. Since we put him on Zoloft he is still nervous and gets upset easily but nothing like before. He says he is not as nervous in school and he feels better being on it.  Hope this helps.

Posted by TX0700 on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:29pm

We have had the same issues as above with my 9 year old son.  When starting the ADHD medications, his anxiety really took off.  Vyvansce then Concerta made him terribly angry, crying, no appetite, etc.  We are on Focalin XR in the AM and Focalin regular at 2:00.  Now the days are better.  Mornings and 5:00 on - not so good.  He also takes Zoloft and Abilify.  Unfortunately with the mood medications (first tried Seroquel then Risperidone) he has put on too much weight.  I am really interested to see what people are saying.  I am afraid that the mood medications are being given due to the side effects of the ADHD medications.  (He also takes maximum doses of Omegavail, Calcium, magnesium, Zinc, Iron, B Complex. and D-3.)

Posted by SteelerMom on Apr 03, 2013 at 12:10am

Steelermom:  this is exactly what we’ve seen, we’ve tried all the stimulants and they all increase anxiety (which creates behavior issues with adults and his peers) and the evenings he’s angry on the comedown.  What we have found is the longer he’s on them the less those side effects are but another side effect increases….that of manicness (mornings, weekends off the med, on the med at school, evenings) which kind of nullifies even being on the med at all.

For now we have him on a homeopathic anxiety med and it seems to help that and we live with the anger in the evenings.  The stimulant still helps him calm down and focus and for the time being we live with the side effects:(

Posted by LoveMyADHDSon on Apr 03, 2013 at 12:58am

This sounds like my son kinda.  ONe on one he’s great, but get him in a big group he has issues. He also doesn’t do well with changes.  Sometimes people act silly when they are anxious.

Posted by dagwood on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:23pm

We tried my son on Vyvanse, he was not the same child on it.  I hate that drug.  It seems like people either love it or hate it.  My son got very tired and could not function at all. He was extremely dizzy.

Posted by dagwood on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:23pm

My son has just been started on Lexapro, been on it for about three weeks. I see some positive changes, but also last week he was EXTREMELY hyper.  Left a msg for the doctor, told me to cut down on the dose.  Hope this helps. My son used to do some OCD type behaviors. I think he has ADHD behaviors. School is hard and it’s hard to hear oh he had a bad day, etc….

Posted by dagwood on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:30pm

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