Can Adderall Cause Anxiety?
Anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are separate conditions but they come as a package deal for a lot of people. It’s common for people with ADHD to be prescribed Adderall for their condition. And anxiety is one of the most common side effects of Adderall. Consequently, about 50% of adults with ADHD also have anxiety disorder. If you’re one of these people, the appropriate treatment can relieve your anxious feelings and improve your ADHD symptoms too.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. These are central nervous stimulants that sharpen focus and reduce impulsivity by increasing the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996.
Adderall is often prescribed to treat ADHD or narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that makes you feel very drowsy during the day. Individuals with narcolepsy have a hard time staying awake for long periods of time and may fall asleep suddenly. Adderall is a sympathomimetic drug, which means that it promotes the fight-or-flight response among other nervous system responses.
What’s the Link Between Adderall and Anxiety?
The systems of neurotransmitters and areas in the brain that Adderall acts on for ADHD treatment are the same as the ones that are active when you experience anxiety. Amphetamines, such as the ones in Adderall can cause activity in the area of the brain known as the amygdala.
The amygdala is usually called the brain’s “fear center.” When your brain senses that you’re in danger, the amygdala sends signals to the rest of your body to get ready for danger. Therefore, when Adderall causes activity in the amygdala, your brain thinks there is imminent danger and your body immediately engages in the fight-or-flight response. This can cause symptoms of anxiety such as:
- Muscle tensing
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilating)
- Trouble concentrating
Who Should Not Take Adderall?
The major risks and side effects happen when the medication is not used as prescribed or the patient takes more than the dose prescribed. Stimulants such as Adderall can raise your heart rate and increase anxiety so before taking any stimulant you need to tell your doctor if you have the following:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Anxiety disorder
10 Tips to Manage Anxiety Caused by Adderall
There are things you can do on your own to manage the anxiety caused by Adderall.
Talk to your doctor
Tell your doctor immediately if you start experiencing anxiety after taking Adderall. Discuss whether treatment with Adderall is right for you. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication if you decide to continue taking Adderall. Or, they might refer you to a mental health specialist for anxiety treatment.
Eat a healthy diet
Research has shown that your diet has an effect on your mental health and well-being. Specifically, your diet has an impact on your gut. In your gut are various kinds of bacteria which comprise your gut “microbiome.” Some of these bacteria are good and others are bad, particularly in large quantities.
Many of these “bad” bacteria thrive on unhealthy or sugary foods. So, the more of these foods you consume, the more likely you are to be feeding them, causing an increase in the number of these bacteria in your gut.
Research shows that your gut health can affect your brain and mental well-being, including anxiety. If you’re suffering from anxiety, take a look at what you’re eating.
Additionally, make sure you’re eating enough omega-3 fish oils, vitamin D, and turmeric. These can help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
Reduce caffeine intake
Unfortunately, caffeine is an anxiogenic substance and that is a substance that can cause anxiety. Reducing your daily consumption of caffeine may help relieve your symptoms.
Get adequate sleep
A study indicated that insomnia is a risk factor for developing both depression and anxiety. Getting enough sleep every night and maintaining a regular sleep schedule will help your body function normally and be better able to deal with anxiety.
Regular aerobic exercise can reduce your anxiety levels. It causes the release of endorphins which brings on a feeling of well-being in your body and reduces your anxiety. Swimming, running, or cycling two or three times a week can help you manage your symptoms of anxiety.
Practice meditation or yoga
Yoga and meditation are known to reduce anxiety. These two practices involve regulating your breathing which in turn, helps regulate your nervous system and reduces your anxiety. You can join an in-person class or try out classes online.
Listen to relaxing music
Listening to relaxing music has been shown to reduce anxiety in young women. Calming music like LoFi beats or acoustic guitar can help manage your symptoms of anxiety.
Relax your muscles
One common symptom of anxiety is part of the fight-or-flight response–tense muscles. There are several ways to relax your muscles if they become sore or achy after being tense. One way is to visit a trained therapist for progressive muscle relaxation or a massage.
Both are known to help reduce anxiety. Soaking in a hot tub or bathtub of hot water also decreases anxiety by decreasing the fight-or-flight response and relieving your tense muscles.
Spend time outside
Spending more time outdoors can help if you’re experiencing anxiety caused by Adderall. Research has revealed that time in nature can relieve anxiety by reducing your sympathetic nervous system activity. If you don’t have a lot of time, just go outside for five to ten minutes every few hours for a quick break. Or you could have lunch outside if it’s nice out.
Essential oils, such as ylang-ylang, sweet orange, and grapefruit have anxiety-relieving features. They can either be absorbed into your body through the skin or inhaled through the nose. There are cosmetic products like sprays or creams that contain these essential oils and many are marketed as good for reducing anxiety. When you go out, bring one of these products with you so you can use it at any time.
Anxiety That’s Not a Symptom of ADHD
If your anxiety is not a symptom of ADHD, but it is a separate condition, you will need to treat both disorders at the same time. There are treatments that can work for both ADHD and anxiety such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Relaxation techniques
- Prescription medications
Is Adderall Addictive?
Adderall is addictive when it’s used at higher levels than what’s been prescribed. If you take Adderall, you might find that it no longer controls your symptoms after a period of time. You might feel like you need to take more in order to feel the effects.
Some people take large amounts of Adderall to experience a euphoric “high.” They may also use it to help them stay awake to study or boost their mental abilities. Teens and young adults are the ones most affected by Adderall addiction. However, anyone taking Adderall is at risk of becoming addicted.
5 Warning Signs of Adderall Abuse
Many signs of Adderall abuse have to do with changes in behavior. They may include a feeling of grandiosity and fearlessness, an ability to quickly process thoughts, an image of wellness, hyperactive tendencies.
Harmful Physical Effects
Although the behavioral changes may be neutral or even helpful, the physical effects of Adderal misuse are usually harmful such as:
- Changes in sexual interest levels
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable shaking of a limb
- Weight loss or malnutrition
Harmful Psychological Effects
Some symptoms of Adderall abuse can look like mental health conditions. A person with an Adderall addiction may feel nervous all the time and susceptible to bouts of anxiety or depression. Still, others may experience hallucinations and delusions.
In addition, addiction to Adderall is also linked to long-term side effects such as:
- Thoughts of suicide
Adderall Becomes Top Priority
When a person with an Adderall addiction starts prioritizing the substance over anything else it’s hard to ignore. Behaviors associated with this reorganization of priorities include:
- Being worried about not having access to Adderall
- Crushing and snorting Adderall
- Doctor shopping
- Spending a lot of time getting and using the drug
Since Adderall is only available by prescription, people may go “doctor shopping” to obtain more. They may go to different doctors to get separate prescriptions and go to different pharmacies to fill them. They can also obtain it illegally.
Not Fulfilling Important Responsibilities
Along with Adderall as their top priority, other symptoms include not taking care of important responsibilities. This includes obligations related to community, family, work, school, or themself. And as the addiction gets worse they may begin to neglect their personal grooming and hygiene. Similar to other types of substance use disorders, Adderall addiction can result in disregarding responsibilities like:
- Daily household chores
- Important family and social occasions
- Presentations at work
- School exams
First City Recovery Can Help with Your Adderall-Related Issues
If you’re struggling with anxiety, Adderall addiction or addiction and anxiety, First City Recovery Center in Indiana can help you get your life back in order. We are a comprehensive treatment center with a range of care levels, from residential inpatient care to outpatient programs. If you are suffering from addiction, we can provide a medical detox to help you get off the drug safely and comfortably.
First City is also a dual diagnosis treatment center in Indiana where you can receive treatment for co-occurring substance abuse and mental health conditions. In the case of a dual diagnosis, both conditions must be treated at the same time in order to be effective. Many rehabs are not prepared to do that. Our addiction specialists and mental health professionals are experienced in treating many different addictions and are trained and licensed in a variety of mental health and addiction therapy services.
Don’t let the stigma of addiction or a mental health condition hold you back. You know you need help and First City can provide it at a high level. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you.
Dr. Vahid Osman, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Indianapolis, IN.
Dr. Osman completed a residency at Austin State Hospital. He has over 32 years of experience in Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.