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How Are Attention Deficit Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder Related?

The Relationship Between ADD and SAD

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Updated April 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD) is a condition sometimes associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD). People with ADD suffer either with poor attention and distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, or both. ADD is the most common mental disorder in children and symptoms often last into adulthood. Without proper treatment, ADD can result in low self-esteem, poor relationships and problems at work or school.

Relationship Between SAD and ADD

Results of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCSR) indicate that nearly half of adults with ADD also suffer with an anxiety disorder. Research has also shown SAD to be one of the most common anxiety disorders in people with ADD. In addition, people who suffer with both ADD and SAD have been shown to develop SAD earlier and experience more severe anxiety than those who have SAD alone.

Treatment of Co-Occurring SAD and ADD

Treatment of co-occurring SAD and ADD is complicated by the fact that those with SAD respond less well to standard stimulant medications used in treating ADD, such as Ritalin. There is some evidence that non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine are effective in treating ADD in those with co-occurring SAD. If medication is part of your treatment, your doctor will work with you to determine the best option for your situation.

Therapy for ADD includes methods also used for SAD such as behavioral therapy and social skills training. Although similar methods may be used, the focus of therapy will vary depending on whether the ADD or SAD symptoms are being targeted. If you have been diagnosed with both ADD and SAD, your doctor will determine the best course of therapy for addressing the symptoms of each disorder.

Sources:

Adler LA, Liebowitz M, Kroneneberger W, et al. Atomoxetine treatment in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and comorbid social anxiety disorder. Depression and Anxiety. 2009;26(3):212-221.

Johnston, C. Children with attention deficit and social anxiety disorder show major deficits over those with ADHD alone: Presented at ADAA. Accessed July 6, 2010.

Surman, CBH. Comorbidity in adult ADHD. Accessed July 6, 2010.

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