Integrated Treatment Helps Children with ADHD and Anxiety

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually appears in children at an early age. Parents of ADHD children struggle to help their children with everyday tasks and academic assignments. Many of these children are unable to complete their homework and find difficulty with routine responsibilities, posing a tense and frustrating situation for both the parent and the child. A number of children who have ADHD also have symptoms of other psychological problems, with nearly 25% of them meeting the clinical requirements for both ADHD and anxiety. Understanding which condition, the anxiety or the ADHD, is at the root of the child’s behavior is imperative for parents. Strategies that might help address the symptoms of ADHD may exacerbate the anxiety in these children, and vice versa.

To add to the scant research exploring the effectiveness of integrated treatments for anxiety and ADHD in children, Matthew A. Jarrett of the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama recently led a study that utilized two modified treatment approaches in eight children between the ages of 8 and 12 years with comorbid anxiety and ADHD. Jarrett used a 10-week approach based on The Defiant Child. The treatment included parent training, parent-child interaction improvement, and modifications that allowed for timeouts to reduce the anxiety associated with punishment and criticism. The second method was derived from the Cool Kids Program and entailed anxiety education, cognitive development, and exposure through games, rewards, repetition, and minimal writing assignments.

After 10 weeks of integrated treatment, the children realized significant reductions in ADHD symptoms, and smaller, more short-term reductions in symptoms of anxiety. All of the children met the clinical threshold for ADHD before the treatment. After treatment, only six of the eight remained in the clinical range, demonstrating a reduction of 25%. Jarrett believes that these findings show promise for children and parents who struggle with the challenges of these issues, but clearly, there is still more work to be done. He added, “Future studies will be needed to identify children who might best respond to such an integrated treatment protocol for ADHD and anxiety.”

Jarrett, M. A., Ollendick, T. H. (2012). Treatment of comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety in children: A multiple baseline design analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80.2, 239-244.

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  • Randall


    April 23rd, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    That is truly some exciting news for families who are having to struggle with this! I know there are many parents of young school age children who will so happy to see this. I feel sometimes like those who are supposed to be helping the kids take a one shot approach to treating ADHD, and if that doe not work, then oh well, that’s all they can do for them. This kind of research though shows that you may have to try two or three different approaches, see how they can be used and blended together to create that perfect unique recipe that is going to work for each specific child. The real lesson here is to never give up, there is something out there for everyone, it just might take a little trial and error to figure out what it is for each of us.

  • Marissa Davis

    Marissa Davis

    April 23rd, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    The keys to this approach are bound to be the parent training and the reteaching the children and parents how to effectively communicate and interact with one another. So much of this always gets lost in the shuffle, and while we are so busy trying to improve the behavior in the classroom little thought is given to how all of this efefcts the behavior and the relationships at home. This could be such a big help who are in this situation, and a great way to grow better communication between not only the families, but also them with the teachers too.

  • kaYla


    April 24th, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    seeing as how my child has both anxiety attacks as well as adhd, I am going to call his pediatrician and have her give me some thoughts as to whether a str=ategy such as this could be beneficial for him.

  • martin


    April 25th, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    hmm,we speak of how it can be tough to handle a child with ADHD.but let us spare a thought for these little souls too.they must be feeling so different with everybody else treating them out of the ordinary and seeing their peers be able to perform a variety of tasks that can be quite a challenge to them.

    this would definitely pose a risk of anxiety in these kids and anxiety especially at a young age can really trigger years of such an experience while getting rid of it becomes more and more tougher.

    so to identify and attack anxiety in children with ADHD sounds great and is bound to be benefit scores of children.

  • Christine


    August 27th, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    This is very helpful to parents out there who has children with anxiety. Great article!

  • Aditya


    December 2nd, 2013 at 4:43 AM

    Children with ADHD are especially vulnerable to anxiety, but unfortunately, many adults tend to be under the impression that only grownups can suffer from anxiety. The average ADHD child, if not suitably treated, will invariably begin falling behind in terms of school work, and this can often lead to the child being ridiculed or taunted. Even if parents and teachers are aware of the child’s disorder, other children, and especially the younger ones, are rarely very understanding, and when the adhd child fails tests and/or exams, when most of the other kids pass, taunting is usually the order of the day.

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