This is the hardest part of being a parent, doctor, or for the child, that is getting the evaluation of ADHD or Anxiety or any mental illness right the first time. Determining a diagnosis of either ADHD or anxiety in children can be difficult, as symptoms such as poor concentration and restlessness are hallmarks of both. Many children with anxiety are also diagnosed with ADHD and vice versa.
It is important to note that the lack of focus and restlessness among children with any anxiety disorder is usually not from boredom, but from specific thoughts or response to a situation. If you suspect your child to have ADHD or anxiety, the following information may help you.
The Challenge of Making an Accurate Diagnosis
Firstly, don’t try to diagnose your child. Even if the symptoms are obvious, the underlying cause may not be. Identifying the prominent symptoms alone leads to making superficial assessments that may put a child at risk of being diagnosed inaccurately.
There have been times when a child has been diagnosed with ADHD when in fact they really should have been diagnosed with anxiety and treated appropriately.
Anxiety can cause restlessness in a child, which can quite often be interpreted mistakenly as hyperactivity or inattentiveness. As a child’s anxiety levels increase, their actions may become quick, irrational and impulsive, thereby making the parent believe that their child has ADHD.
For professionals to develop the most suitable treatment plan, a thorough and accurate diagnosis must be done first. A parent would be wise to choose a professional who is willing to delve deeper into the signs and symptoms exhibited by their child, thus coming up with the most accurate diagnosis.
Identifying Primary or Secondary Conditions
Correct diagnosis is essential for effective targeting of treatment methods.
A key factor for professionals and parents is determining whether the ADHD and/or anxiety is a primary or secondary condition. This is a “which came first – the chicken or the egg?” conundrum. Which is the cause, and which is the symptom?
Childhood can be a very anxious time for many children, and their many irrational fears may generalize to levels that constantly affect their attitude and behavior. If a child’s level of anxiety appears ever-present and is seen every day, then their anxiety is likely a primary condition.
If one or both parents of a child are suffering from any anxiety disorder then it is more likely that the child’s anxiety has a genetic or learned component, and hence likely to be classed as primary. When anxiety is determined to be a primary condition, treatment will by necessity focus on reducing and overcoming that anxiety, and associated triggers.
Conversely, symptoms of anxiety may have developed because of the struggle to deal with ADHD symptoms. Any negative feedback they feel due to their ‘problem’ makes them even more anxious. In this scenario, the anxiety symptoms will abate as the ADHD symptoms are effectively dealt with.
Therefore, the professional must come up with a treatment plan that is targeted towards the child’s ADHD symptoms while also helping them deal with their emotional and social problems.
Finding the Best Treatment Plan
Treatment for children with ADHD, anxiety or both may include medications, individual therapy, behavioral therapy and family counseling. It is always wise to ask for a second opinion if you are not happy with either the diagnosis or suggested treatment, before finally deciding which treatment to go with.
Rely on professional help but recognize that approaches to any mental or emotional issues can be very subjective and solutions will differ between practitioners.
Another crucial point to remember is that medications have side effects and if possible, the natural route is a safer option. Some ADHD prescriptions are believed to have caused as many problems as they have solved. Ask your doctor for full details.