ADHD, Anxiety and Narcissistic Abuse: How are they connected?

Written by Angela Atkinson

If you have ever been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know that one of the side-effects is a crippling kind of anxiety – one that makes you stop talking to the people you once felt closest to and focus only on the narcissist’s needs/wants/manipulative games. This level of anxiety is often one of many symptoms of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which is often seen in narcissistic abuse survivors. BUT did you know that anxiety can also affect your attention span? And, researchers say, it’s possible that your C-PTSD might just be the cause of your ADHD (attention hyperactivity deficit disorder).

What is ADHD? 

According to Healthilne.com, “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. People with ADHD may also have trouble focusing their attention on a single task or sitting still for long periods of time.”

What is C-PTSD?

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a serious mental health condition affecting a large percentage of victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse. This disorder can take years to treat and many professionals misdiagnose it. That’s partly due to the fact that many aren’t familiar with the symptoms of C-PTSD.

In some cases, therapists and social workers have been known to victim-blame when they aren’t familiar with the subtle tricks of a narcissist. Unfortunately, it can be a lifelong condition, but it can be managed with mindfulness and behavior modification, among other therapies and modalities.

What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse means psychological, emotional, and in some cases, physical abuse in toxic relationships. Narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship can involve a spouse, a parent or other family member, a friend, a coworker or manager, or even a neighbor or acquaintance – anyone with whom you have any type of relationship. Narcissistic abuse involves subtle manipulation, pervasive control tactics, gaslighting, and emotional and psychological abuse.  Many narcissistic abusers might be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder – if they actually go to a psychologist for diagnosis, but this rarely happens as narcissists don’t feel that there’s anything with them. They may be overtly narcissistic, or they may be more of a covert narcissist. In either case, anyone in a close relationship with one of these toxic people will be used as a form of narcissistic supply and not treated like an actual person. Sadly, even the most intelligent and educated people can be manipulated and abused by a narcissist.

What’s the connection between ADHD and toxic-relationship-induced C-PTSD?

As it turns out, you might even have developed a case of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s true – researchers have found that there is a link between the two conditions. They say that if you have anxiety, then you’re more likely to have attention disorders. Researchers believe there is a brain connection between ADHD and C-PTSD. Initial studies on teens reveal that they’re more likely to have both issues together.

If you have anxiety or trouble concentrating, it might be a direct result of your relationship with a toxic narcissist. I’ll fill you in on the research and explain the connection in this video.

Video Sources & References

Other Anxiety and Concentration Connections to Consider

If you have anxiety or trouble concentrating, consider these discoveries:

1. The link between anxiety and attention.

  • Researchers at the University of Texas discovered that your anxiety and attention span are linked.
  • They found that teens who have anxiety are also more likely to perform worse in school because of attention issues.
  • They also saw a connection between anxiety and other mental health issues like depression and suicide.
  • Researchers shared that in some cases anxiety appeared first while in other cases attention span issues appeared first.
  • Recognizing the first issue can help families deal with the second one.
  • Teens who had issues concentrating were also more likely to have anxiety.
  • Experts believe there is a deeper reason for this in the brain.

2. Unconscious anxiety.

Medical experts believe unconscious anxiety can explain some cases of attention deficit disorders.

  • Unconscious anxiety occurs when you don’t recognize you’re actually suffering from worry and concern.
  • You have trouble concentrating, so you blame it on your poor attention span. However, in reality, your unconscious anxiety is actually preventing you from being able to focus.
  • The root of this anxiety can be buried among deeper emotional issues.

3. Overlapping symptoms.

The symptoms of anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can overlap.

  • The shared symptoms can include having trouble concentrating and focusing on one task.
  • They can also include not having control over your impulses, being irritable, feeling scared, and being afraid to try new things.
  • It’s not always easy to tell anxiety and attention disorders apart.

4. Treatment and help.

If you or someone you care about has anxiety and attention issues, seeking help may bring real benefits.

  • Treatment options can include medication to control anxiety and help attention spans.
  • Another treatment option is therapy, counseling, or coaching that helps you learn how to adjust your behavior.
  • Meditation and relaxation are also commonly used to help with both disorders.

5. The role of learning disabilities.

It’s important to avoid overlooking learning disabilities that can exacerbate anxiety and attention issues. Researchers have noticed that all three issues can occur together.

  • In some cases, learning disabilities are not caught right away as a child starts school. Children are sometimes able to compensate for their learning disabilities, so the issues go undiagnosed.
  • However, anxiety and attention disorders can be worse in children with learning disabilities.
  • By focusing on the learning issues, these kids have the chance to succeed in school and reduce their anxiety.
  • A child with a learning disability can feel anxious before every test or quiz in school and try to avoid classes. In addition, the same child can be so stressed out that they’re unable to concentrate on the simplest tasks. The learning disability makes these issues stronger and more difficult to treat.
  • It’s important to note that kids aren’t the only ones who suffer from all three conditions. Adults can spend years being misdiagnosed or not getting the proper treatments.

Resources That Might Help You

Ways to Get Support

Author

  • Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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