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Do ADHD symptoms get worse with stress?

Do ADHD symptoms get worse with stress?


Does stress increase ADHD symptoms?

You might have found yourself asking, does ADHD worsen with stress? Perhaps you've noticed your child exhibiting ADHD symptoms more intensely after school, exams, or a generally hectic day. Well, the relationship between stress and ADHD is bidirectional.

While stress can make ADHD symptoms worse, the difficulties caused by ADHD can make the child feel stressed out. This can result in a vicious cycle.

Knowing what triggers ADHD symptoms in your child can help you better protect them from such challenges. Starting with, you might want to put a check on activities that stress your child.

Do ADHD symptoms get worse with age?

As a child goes into adulthood, they tend to face more life challenges. These can include problems with adolescence, academic difficulties, and work demands that increase stress levels, all of which can worsen ADHD symptoms.

However, ADHD tends to get better with age in most people, especially with ongoing treatment.

Although ADHD symptoms generally improve with age, only about 10% of people fully outgrow it. The symptoms can manifest in different forms in adulthood, like verbal impulsivity and difficulty making decisions.

The thing is, you can hardly tell that it is an ADHD symptom the person is experiencing because most people only associate the disorder with childhood behaviors. It's, therefore, important for children to continue their ADHD treatment into adulthood even when they can barely feel the symptoms anymore. This will help put a check on how severely the ADHD symptoms manifest in the presence of ADHD triggers like stress.

ADHD triggers you should know

So, let's talk about the ADHD triggers you should know about so you can be better armed.

The common ADHD triggers include:


Stress is the No.1 culprit when it comes to ADHD triggers. Stress affects the prefrontal cortex, an area also influenced by ADHD. That's why the relationship between stress and ADHD is bidirectional. ADHD patients can't properly focus or filter out excessive stimuli, so it leaves them stressed. At the same time, stress worsens the ADHD symptoms.

Insufficient sleep

About half of the people living with ADHD have sleep problems. Inadequate sleep can cause concentration issues, poor impulse control, drowsiness, and a decline in performance. All these are symptoms of ADHD, so they can get worse when the ADHD patient doesn't get enough sleep.

Certain Foods

The following food types can worsen ADHD symptoms:

Excessive screen time

A 2019 study shows that more than 2 hours of screen time a day resulted in inattention problems in preschoolers. So you might want to limit how much your ADHD-diagnosed child stays glued to the screen.

Sensory overload

Things like loud sounds, strong smells, bright light, and a sudden touch can trigger ADHD symptoms. It's difficult for an ADHD patient's brain to quickly process what's going on when overstimulated.

The bottom line

The good thing is, everything about ADHD triggers can be controlled. You can encourage your child to get more sleep, manage stress, and eat healthy foods. The first step is to know what the triggers are and then do something about it. And most importantly, never forget your ADHD medication and Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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