Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the world, and Adderall is one of the most popular prescription drugs available. Due to the anxiety’s prevalence and how well-known Adderall’s attention-boosting effects are, it is understandable that some people might attempt to use the drug to treat this mental health disorder. However, it cannot treat anxiety and can actually make symptoms worse.
Article at a Glance:
- While Adderall can alleviate symptoms of certain types of anxiety, the medication could cause anxiety to increase due to its effects on the brain.
- Relying on the drug can result in worsening anxiety once the Adderall wears off.
- Adderall can become addictive if taken consistently or in large doses.
Table of Contents
Does Adderall Help with Anxiety?
It is important to note that prescribing Adderall for anxiety is uncommon. Can it help with anxiety, though? No, and it often makes symptoms of anxiety worse.
Adderall is not an anti-anxiety medication but rather a stimulant that boosts a person’s attention span, motivation and energy. The drug, a combination of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is frequently abused by students for long study sessions to remain attentive and fend off drowsiness.
Anxiety Disorders that Co-Occur with ADHD or Narcolepsy
As noted, Adderall is typically not prescribed for anxiety, however, the drug might be prescribed for people with anxiety when the disorder co-occurs with ADHD or narcolepsy. In some cases, ADHD or narcolepsy can have effects that lead to anxiety. Examples include when someone has poor performance at school or work due to not paying attention, or when regular daytime drowsiness interferes with completing daily tasks.
A 2010 study on the prevalence of mood disorders in people who have narcolepsy revealed a significant crossover. More than half of the patients with narcolepsy had panic attacks or symptoms of an anxiety disorder. There is also a correlation between ADHD and anxiety: Approximately 50% of adults who struggle with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
Adderall for Other Anxiety Disorders
Depending on the type of anxiety someone has, Adderall could provide short-term relief from the effects of certain mental health disorders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists the five anxiety disorders as:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia)
While it can provide short-term relief for some anxiety disorders, the way it interacts with the brain’s chemistry can also cause increased anxiety.
Does Adderall Cause Anxiety?
Adderall increases the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) can boost a person’s mood and cause people to feel high while under the effects of Adderall. The increased brain activity that occurs when someone uses stimulants (like Adderall) can lead to anxiety.
For some people, Adderall causes anxiety more indirectly. Since it increases feel-good neurotransmitter levels in the brain, people can experience negative feelings as the drug’s effects wear off. The number of neurotransmitters reduces as the body readjusts its chemical balance. The boost in energy can be replaced with overwhelming drowsiness. A person’s temporarily improved self-confidence can diminish in favor of increased anxiety due to lower-than-usual self-esteem. This process is called withdrawal.
Additionally, if someone takes it consistently, they could develop a chemical dependence on the drug. This reliance can form addiction and cause people to feel anxious when not using the drug.
Managing Anxiety Caused by Adderall
Like any drug, the effects of Adderall are not permanent. People must continue to use the drug if they want to continue experiencing increased energy, attentiveness, and self-confidence.
When someone develops anxiety as a side effect due to using Adderall, they should contact their doctor to discuss how to manage their anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax and Valium, can help but are highly addictive as well. Less addictive medications like sertraline and fluoxetine are more likely to be prescribed instead. These are long-term medications with no addictive potential and strong evidence for their positive effects on anxiety.
If use leads to anxiety, stopping the use of the drug could end the anxious feelings. However, if a dependence formed, the person could experience withdrawal symptoms, including even more anxiety due to the low amount of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Getting Help for Co-Occurring Addiction & Anxiety
A person with a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness could develop either condition first. There is not a standard order in which the disorders are generally diagnosed. While it is unclear which usually develops first, mental illness and addiction often influence one another.
When considering treatment options, it is important to address both disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment will provide the patient with a means to control their substance use disorder while also providing the resources necessary to relieve the symptoms of their mental health disorder.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village can help. The Recovery Village has dual diagnosis treatment programs that can address both diagnoses. To learn more about our comprehensive treatment plans, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative.
Droogleever Fortuyn, HA; et al. “Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Narcolepsy: A Case-Control Study.” General Hospital Psychiatry, Jan-Feb 2010. Accessed June 8, 2020.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).” Accessed June 8, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.