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Does Adderall Help With Anxiety

Key Points

  • Adderall is used to manage the symptoms of ADHD, a common neurodevelopmental condition.
  • Anxiety symptoms often manifest with ADHD, which can be challenging for people with these conditions.
  • Adderall is not approved to treat anxiety and it may even make the symptoms of anxiety worse.
  • Adderall withdrawal can cause anxiety symptoms or worsen existing symptoms.
  • Alternative treatment options are available to treat anxiety and ADHD.

Adderall is used to manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common neurodevelopmental condition that affects thoughts and behaviors.[1] It’s not uncommon for anxiety symptoms to manifest with ADHD, which can be challenging for those affected, but Adderall isn’t likely to improve the anxiety. In fact, it can make the symptoms of anxiety worse.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a combination stimulant medication with amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that’s used to treat ADHD. It works by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain and can improve focus, attention, and concentration.[2] This medication is also used to treat narcolepsy, a chronic neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control the sleep-wake cycle. People may misuse Adderall to improve concentration and stay awake, such as students who need to stay up late to study.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that involves excessive fear and worry. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 40 million adults in the US have an anxiety disorder.[3] This includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Everyone experiences anxious feelings from time to time, but when that feeling occurs often and interferes with daily functioning, it could be an anxiety disorder.

The common symptoms of anxiety include:[4]

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of danger
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Avoidance
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia

Can Adderall Be Used to Treat Anxiety?

Adderall is not labeled for the treatment of anxiety.[5] It’s only approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. With anxiety, Adderall can worsen symptoms like nervousness, irritability, and restlessness. The relationship between ADHD medication and anxiety is complex, so healthcare providers may advise against starting Adderall for someone who has anxiety, depression, or agitation.

Some people report more symptoms of anxiety with ADHD medication, while others report short-term relief from anxiety.[6] Regular use or overuse of amphetamines like Adderall may lead to mood swings, anxiety, and panic attacks. In addition, withdrawal from Adderall can cause anxiety.

Side Effects of Adderall

Side Effects of Adderall

Adderall does have a risk of side effects, including:[7]

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Stomach pain

In rare cases, Adderall can cause intense side effects like:[8]

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Paranoia
  • Worsening mental health conditions

Side effects are more common in people who have heart disease, high blood pressure, substance use disorder, or other mental health conditions.

Adderall Interactions with Anxiety Medications

Adderall may interact with some classes of anxiety medications. There are no labeled drug interactions between Adderall and benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, but they are not recommended to be used together unless under the supervision of a healthcare provider.[9]

Another class of anxiety medications that interact with Adderall are monoamine oxidase inhibitors.[10] Examples of MAOIs include Nardil and Marplan. Together, these drugs can cause an increase in blood pressure and lead to hypertensive crisis.

When combined with anxiety medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), Adderall carries a risk of serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can cause too much serotonin in the synapses of the brain.[11]

Adderall Addiction and Withdrawal

Adderall helps many people, but it can cause addiction. That risk may be higher in people who have a substance use disorder. It’s important to take Adderall only with a prescription and never increase the dose, take it more often, or use it for longer than prescribed, as this increases the risk of addiction.

Stopping Adderall abruptly may cause withdrawal symptoms like sleep problems, severe tiredness, and mental or mood changes like depression. Doctors will usually decrease the dose gradually to help prevent withdrawal, particularly with people who’ve taken Adderall for a long time or in high doses.

Treating Anxiety and ADHD

Though Adderall isn’t approved or beneficial for treating anxiety when it co-occurs with ADHD, there are ways to manage these conditions.

Anxiety can be treated with anti-anxiety medications, and stimulants are used to treat ADHD, but other options are available. For example, you may receive therapy for anxiety and stimulant medication for ADHD. The specifics of your conditions and your lifestyle will be used to determine a unique treatment plan.

Get Help for Anxiety and ADHD

Adderall may be prescribed to help treat ADHD. It isn’t often used for anxiety and could even worsen symptoms in some people. If you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD and anxiety, Ocean Recovery can help. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adderall

Adderall’s effects on anxiety are complex and vary from person to person. Some people may experience increased anxiety, while others may have short-term relief from anxiety symptoms by managing their ADHD.

Yes, Adderall is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA.[12] It’s a central nervous system stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy but has a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Adderall is not used to treat social anxiety disorder. People who are treated for ADHD with Adderall may experience short-term relief from symptoms of social anxiety disorder. However, others may experience more symptoms of social anxiety with Adderall.

Though Adderall is only FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, it has been used off-label to treat depression that hasn’t responded to other treatments in rare cases. This is controversial, however, and there’s lack of evidence to support its use.

There are several Adderall alternatives available for ADHD, including other stimulant medications like Ritalin and Vyvanse and non-stimulant medications like Strattera or Intuniv.

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[1][2][7][8][9][10][11] WebMD. (n.d.). Adderall Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing. WebMD. Retrieved from on 2023, September 18.

[3] Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved from on 2023, September 18.

[4] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, May 4). Anxiety disorders. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from on 2023, September 18.

[5] Adderall: Uses, Dosage, Interactions & Safety Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from on 2023, September 18.

[6] Does Adderall Help With Anxiety?: Benefits and Side Effects. (n.d.-b). Retrieved from on 2023, September 18.

[12] Controlled Substance Schedules. (n.d.). Retrieved from 2023, September 18. 

Last medically reviewed October 26, 2022.