Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/1/2022
Adderall® is a medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can make it tough to focus and is characterized by feelings of impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Some people with ADHD may experience anxiety surrounding their condition. Can Adderall help with that?
Keep reading to find out more about anxiety, as well as information on Adderall and whether it can help with anxiety.
Anxiety is fairly common. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), around 40 millionadults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. When it comes to anxiety disorders, there are actually a number of different types and they can all take up a lot of mental energy and affect your quality of life.
One of the most common types is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This anxiety disorder is diagnosed when someone has trouble controlling their anxiety more often than they don't during the course of six months.
Other types of anxiety disorders (besides GAD) are:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): With OCD, people have a tough time escaping recurrent thoughts and compulsive behaviors (like checking to make sure you locked the door or turned off the stove).
Social Anxiety Disorder: Defined by feelings of being overwhelmed in social situations, this disorder is sometimes called social phobia. Beyond presenting when socializing with others, it may also include things like public speaking.
Panic Disorder: Feelings of fear, heart palpitations and shortness of breath are symptoms of panic disorder. Having a panic attack is another sign.
So, how do you know if you have anxiety? Symptoms of anxiety include:
Increased heart rate
Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is actually a combination of two things — dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.
There are a few common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD may make it difficult to focus and shorten your attention span, control your actions and remain still. Adderall may also be used to treat narcolepsy.
This medication is in a class of meds called central nervous system stimulants, which work by altering the amount of certain substances in your brain.
While popularly prescribed and very useful to the people who need it, Adderall does come with the risk of some side effects. Those side effects include:
Painful menstrual cramps
Weight loss or loss of appetite
Along with these common side effects, there are some more serious ones associated with stimulant medications. In very rare cases, Adderall can cause a heart attack — especially in those who have heart conditions.
If you stop taking some stimulant medications (like Adderall) quickly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. If you get to a point where you’d like to stop taking Adderall, you should always speak to a medical professional to come up with a plan of how to wean yourself off of it.
We won’t lie: this question is a bit complicated. Adderall may help with anxiety, but it may also cause or contribute to it.
Let’s dive into this more. If your anxiety is caused by having ADHD, then taking Adderall (which is designed to help diminish the symptoms of ADHD) may help. This is because Adderall increases a neurotransmitter called dopamine in your brain, which helps you focus — and that can make you feel calmer.
However, if you do not have ADHD and you take Adderall, it may increase anxiety. That’s because Adderall is a stimulant and can make those without ADHD feel jittery and nervous.
One study conducted using 13 healthy college students looked at how Adderall effected students who did not have ADHD.
Overall, researchers determined that Adderall had little impact on neurocognitive performance in healthy college students.
Research highlighted in this study also showed that prescription stimulant misuse isn’t solely an American issue — it has been reported in places like the United Kingdom, Germany and more.
While more research needs to be conducted before anything can be said definitively, it seems clear that misusing stimulants can actually make anxiety worse.
It also found that ADHD symptoms and anxiety was significantly associated with prescription stimulant misuse. Translation: Using Adderall when you don’t need it can actually increase anxiety.
What it boils down to is this: using Adderall to treat anxiety is not the way to go. However, if you have ADHD that is causing you anxiety, Adderall may help. This is because it will ease symptoms of ADHD.
As you can see, Adderall is not a solution for treating anxiety. In fact, it may cause even more of it. But there are proven ways to handle your anxiety and lessen its effects.
Here are some treatment options when it comes to addressing anxiety:
Medication: Anti-anxiety medication is one way to get a handle on anxiety. Some of the medications prescribed for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta-blockers and benzodiazepines. These medications can help manage the symptoms of anxiety.
Therapy:Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often suggested for many mental health disorders, including anxiety. In this type of therapy, you work with a therapy provider to identify behaviors that add to your anxiety and figure out ways to stop them.
Meditation: While meditation may not be the only solution to erasing anxiety, it can be a good thing to use in conjunction with other treatments. A study done in 2014 found that 20 minutes of medication helped to lower anxiety — most likely because it temporarily lowers brain activity.
Adderall is not an appropriate treatment for anxiety. It is, however, a medication that can be prescribed for ADHD. And, if you have anxiety that is caused by your ADHD, you may notice that your anxiety goes away when taking Adderall.
If you are dealing with anxiety outside of ADHD, you’ll need to explore other treatment options, as Adderall is not prescribed for anxiety and can make anxiety worse. Treatments for anxiety include therapy, medication and more.
If you want to learn more about Adderall or want to discuss treatment options for anxiety, the first step is to speak with a medical professional.