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Does Adderall Help With Anxiety?


Does Adderall Help With Anxiety?

The relationship between Adderall and anxiety isn’t a simple one, as it can sometimes cause anxiety and sometimes cure it. To make things more complicated, child and adult ADHD sufferers also frequently struggle with anxiety and depression disorders. Treating everything together is complicated, difficult, and sometimes dangerous.

Key Takeaways: Adderall and Anxiety

Does Adderall Help With Stress And Anxiety?

It’s possible that Adderall can relieve anxiety or worsen it. The effect it has is determined by what’s already going on in your head. If you have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or a couple of other related mental health disorders, Adderall might have a calming effect.

Otherwise, it’s more likely that Adderall will make your anxiety symptoms worse [1]. Adderall is the brand name of a prescription medication generically called amphetamine-dextroamphetamine and is, therefore, a powerful stimulant. Perhaps surprisingly, its stimulant effects are what lead to a sense of calm for ADHD sufferers.

It’s also used as a study drug illicitly by many students and professionals. While Adderall increases focus, it can also cause people without ADHD to feel anxious instead of calm. The difference might be caused by differing brain chemistry and how Adderall works in the brain. 

does adderall help with anxiety Percentage of college students misusing prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, as a study drug

How Does Adderall Work?

A diagnosis of ADHD seems to be associated with lowered levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a critical part of the reward pathway in the human brain, which is important to motivation and focus. One of the primary effects of Adderall is to raise and maintain dopamine levels, thereby relieving ADHD symptoms.

Its effects on dopamine levels may be part of why Adderall abuse is so common, often leading to Adderall addiction and physical dependence. 

However, brain chemistry may not be the reason Adderall is calming, at least not directly.

Does Adderall Calm You Down?

Taking Adderall increases the amount of dopamine in your brain, thereby helping you focus. However, while dopamine is associated with good feelings, stimulants aren’t used as a treatment for anxiety. There’s no direct reason for Adderall to improve anxious feelings.

Remember that ADHD is a mental health disorder that makes fundamental aspects of living significantly more difficult. When someone with ADHD receives treatment, they often feel a great deal of relief [2]. Making life a little easier understandably relieves anxiety.

Does Adderall Cause Anxiety?

Adderall use has been associated with increased anxiety, particularly in people who don’t suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It may not be surprising that anxiety symptoms can be caused by Adderall or stimulant drugs. Comparing Adderall to another common stimulant like caffeine might help to understand why.

Adderall and caffeine are both central nervous system stimulants. Adderall can cause the same sort of jitteriness that caffeine does, as well as the same sensitivity. Stimulating autonomic functions like high blood pressure and heart rate can also lead to increased anxiety, particularly for those with an anxiety disorder.

Using Adderall illicitly as a smart drug is even more likely to lead to anxiety. Adderall abuse of that sort usually means higher doses, which will worsen side effects. The least of the adverse reactions you can expect is trouble sleeping. 

More serious side effects include heart attack, seizure, stroke, mood disturbances, panic attacks, and psychotic episodes.

Co-Occurring Conditions With ADHD and Narcolepsy

The Federal Drug Administration has approved Adderall for two uses. The first is ADHD, as we’ve discussed. The other is narcolepsy, a condition characterized by ‘attacks’ of sleep during waking hours [3]

Both illnesses are often found in patients that also have a number of related, co-occurring conditions. For example, patients diagnosed with narcolepsy are often already under treatment for depression and anxiety [4] [5].

Being diagnosed with ADHD comes with a higher risk of experiencing another mental illness. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Substance use disorder.
  • Personality disorders [6].

Adderall and Anxiety Medications: What You Should Know

While addressing ADHD symptoms can treat anxiety as well, any potential help managing anxiety is usually welcome. Additionally, it’s not unusual for those abusing Adderall as a study aid to also be struggling with anxiety. However, you should avoid mixing Adderall with several common treatments for anxiety disorders and depression.

Your doctor will have a complete list, but you should often avoid:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • St. John’s Wort [7].

The danger may be particularly grave when using Adderall illicitly. It would not be surprising if those struggling with substance use disorders also sought treatment for depression and anxiety, potentially causing a dangerous interaction.

Can You Take Adderall and Anti-Anxiety Medications at the Same Time?

You can, though there are some risks and it’s best done with the advice of a doctor. Sometimes doctors will prescribe Adderall with an anti-anxiety medication that can cause side effects, judging that the benefits are worth it [8].

Other anti-anxiety prescription drugs may work well with fewer adverse interactions. However, there may be a few good reasons to try other options to treat ADHD. First, Adderall seems to be generally less effective when someone also struggles with anxiety, so there may be a better option.

Secondly, relieving other mental health issues may resolve attention problems. We’ve seen that treating ADHD can help with anxiety. The opposite may also be true so that addressing anxiety also improves focus.

What’s the Best Drug for Severe Anxiety?

This is a question best answered with the help of professional medical advice, tailored to your specific needs. When anxiety lasts for an extended period, it may be an anxiety disorder. Examples include:

does adderall help with anxiety
  • Generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Social anxiety disorder.

A doctor can offer a diagnosis and the right anti-anxiety treatment to help.

Which ADHD Medication Causes the Least Anxiety?

When anxiety symptoms persist, your doctor may try other ADHD drugs. The most common drug for this sort of dual diagnosis treatment is atomoxetine [9]. It’s successful in treating symptoms of ADHD, but isn’t a stimulant and therefore is less likely to make anxiety worse. It can also be more easily used with other anti-anxiety treatments.

Managing Adderall Related Anxiety

Sometimes, treating ADHD successfully may mean sticking with Adderall and managing anxiety by addressing it in another way. Some symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks or intrusive thoughts, might benefit from psychiatric treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Most anti-anxiety medication has the potential to cause negative interactions with Adderall. Sometimes the side effects are minimal and worth it to treat symptoms. 

However, changing medication may be necessary. A common combination for anxiety and ADHD is atomoxetine and fluoxetine [10]

Stimulants for Anxiety and Depression

Stimulant drugs generally aren’t used to treat anxiety. However, they are used to treat another common mental health disorder, depression. There is such a strong anxiety and depression association that anxiety sufferers may end up taking a stimulant.

Sometimes that can be dangerous. Stimulants may sometimes lend motivation to suicidal thoughts. Focused and energized thinking can be centered on negative feelings. Long-term recovery often involves finding the right mix of drugs.

People with untreated or under-treated depression may also take stimulants like Adderall illicitly as a form of self-medication. However, stopping use can lead to an Adderall crash and withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, including a worsening of depression. Addiction treatment might be necessary to manage drug use at that point.

Adderall Alternatives

It may be clear at this point that Adderall is a great treatment for ADHD, but is better avoided if you don’t struggle with the disorder due to Adderall addiction risks. That doesn’t mean you’re not still looking for ways to boost mental energy, however. Using stimulants illicitly probably isn’t a good idea, but there may be other options with fewer risks.

Some supplements include ingredients that are tailored to improve cognition, including focus, memory, reasoning, and more. For example, both Mind Lab Pro and Performance Lab nootropics include citicoline. Something like a natural Adderall, citicoline can increase all of those attributes [11].

Other ingredients have neuroprotective properties, so you can continue thinking clearly far into the future.

FAQ

Check out these quick answers to common questions.

Will Adderall Help With Social Anxiety?

Adderall probably won’t directly help social anxiety and may even make it worse. However, relieving symptoms of ADHD may lead to more confidence and less anxiety. 

What Does It Mean if Adderall Makes You Calm?

If you take Adderall and it helps you focus, you may have ADHD. The effect might also be calming, as a cessation of some of the frantic symptoms of ADHD can be a relief. 

Is There Medication for a Child With ADHD and Anxiety?

Atomoxetine has been used to treat ADHD successfully but isn’t a stimulant. It can be used with some common anxiety medications safely.

Can Stimulants Help With Anxiety?

Prescription stimulants aren’t usually used to treat anxiety directly, though they might be used to treat depression.

Does Adderall Help With Depression?

Adderall isn’t approved as a treatment for depression. There are several other treatment options with a better track record that should probably be tried first.

Conclusion

Anxiety and ADHD can have serious, long-lasting impacts on a person’s life. Facing both together is more than challenging. The right treatment can make all the difference, but it’s important to understand your options, as well as the risks each entails.

References:

  1. Weyandt, Lisa L., et al. “Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects OF Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 27 June 2018, www.mdpi.com/2226-4787/6/3/58/htm.
  2. Coughlin, Catherine G, et al. “Meta-Analysis: Reduced Risk of Anxiety with Psychostimulant Treatment in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4617411/.
  3. “Apa Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, dictionary.apa.org/narcolepsy.
  4. Cohen, Alexander, et al. “Comorbidities in a Community Sample of Narcolepsy.” Sleep Medicine, Elsevier, 21 Nov. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945717315587.
  5. Lee, Min-Jing, et al. “Comorbidity of Narcolepsy and Depressive DISORDERS: A NATIONWIDE Population-Based Study in Taiwan.” Sleep Medicine, Elsevier, 5 Sept. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945717303271.
  6. Katzman, Martin A., et al. “Adult Adhd and Comorbid Disorders: Clinical Implications of a Dimensional Approach.” BMC Psychiatry, BioMed Central, 22 Aug. 2017, link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12888-017-1463-3.
  7. “Adderall CII .” Access Data, Federal Drug Administration, www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/011522s043lbl.pdf.
  8. Gabriel, Adel. “The Mixed Amphetamine Salt Extended RELEASE (Adderall XR, Max-XR) as an ADJUNCTIVE to Ssris or Snris in the Treatment of Adult ADHD Patients with COMORBID Partially Responsive Generalized Anxiety: An Open-Label Study.” ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, Springer Vienna, 4 May 2010, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12402-010-0025-z.
  9. “Summary of Findings.” Guidelines and Recommendations for ADHD in Children and Adolescents [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK174630/.
  10. “Managing Adhd in Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Comorbid Anxiety in Primary Care.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1896299/. 
  11. Abad-Santos F, Novalbos-Reina J, Gallego-Sandín S, García AG. Tratamiento del deterioro cognitivo leve: utilidad de la citicolina [Treatment of mild cognitive impairment: value of citicoline]. Rev Neurol. 2002 Oct 1-15;35(7):675-82. Spanish. PMID: 12389156.
 
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