ADD and SAD Treatment and Symptoms

Treatment, Symptoms and Causes

Unhappy schoolgirl walking alone in school corridor
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Attention-deficit/hyperactive 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 Social Anxiety Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder

Results of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCSR) indicate that nearly half of adults with ADD also suffer from 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 from both ADD and social anxiety disorder have been shown to develop SAD earlier and experience more severe anxiety than those who have social anxiety disorder alone. Having both of these conditions together can severely impair functioning.

Treatment of Co-Occurring SAD and ADD

Treatment of co-occurring SAD and ADD is complicated by the fact that those with social anxiety disorder respond less well to standard stimulant medications used in treating ADD, such as Ritalin. There is some evidence that non-stimulant medications such as Strattera (atomoxetine) are effective in treating ADD in those with co-occurring social anxiety disorder.

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. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be particularly helpful in managing symptoms of both ADD and social anxiety disorder.

 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 social anxiety disorder, your doctor will determine the best course of therapy for addressing the symptoms of each disorder. Your doctor will also determine which one, if either, is causing you the most significant distress when determining which one to treat first.

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

In the United States, roughly 60% of kids with ADHD grow up to become adults with ADHD. That's around eight million adults, or 4% of the population. However, despite that figure, only about 20% of those adults have been diagnosed and/or treated and only a quarter of those get help for their ADHD.

One important factor with adult ADHD is that your difficulties must go back to your childhood and they must interfere with more than one aspect of your life, such as work and relationships. If you have just recently started having these difficulties, your doctor will look at other reasons.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Organizational problems
  • Forgetting appointments, activities and deadlines
  • Being impulsive
  • Time management difficulties
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Problems following through on tasks
  • Difficulty prioritizing
  • Difficulty listening to instructions
  • Impulsivity
  • Mood swings
  • Quick temper
  • Restless or hyperactive
  • Can't multitask
  • Impatience
  • Problems handling stress
  • Difficulty remembering details

Causes of ADHD

Like many disorders, no one knows exactly what causes ADHD. However, there are factors that may influence its development, including:

  • Environment
  • Genetics
  • Central nervous system problems during development, like exposure to lead paint


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.

"Adult ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder)." Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2016).

"Adult attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD)." Mayo Clinic (2016).