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Adderall For Anxiety Disorders: A Counterintuitive Treatment Option

One counterintuitive treatment that has emerged in recent years for social anxiety disorders is that of the medication Adderall. The reason that this is a counterintuitive treatment option is due to the fact that most anxiety disorders are thought to be a result of overstimulation. Since many individuals with anxiety are overstimulated, treatment with a “stimulant” like Adderall wouldn’t make much sense – because this would provide further stimulation and possibly lead to increases in anxiety.

Although the first line of treatment for anxiety is typically an anti-anxiety medication or SSRI, some individuals don’t seem to get any relief. Going through medication after medication and becoming frustrated and more anxious from the fact that you can’t seem to find relief is a recipe for hopelessness. If you have tried many of the traditional treatments and have a psychiatrist willing to work with you, trying Adderall for social anxiety may be beneficial.  In some cases psychiatrists may prescribe Adderall for treatment-resistant depression as a supplemental treatment to an SSRI.

How does Adderall reduce social anxiety?

Adderall is a psychostimulant that causes dopamine to be released into the brain. Additionally, it does release norepinephrine and can affect serotonin. This drug makes most people feel good, focused, and productive. It releases social anxiety by stimulating the brain so that during social situations, you don’t have difficulty thinking of what to say; it makes you feel calm and focused at the optimal dose.

1. Pro social effect

While on Adderall most people feel more social, outgoing, and willing to talk. As I already mentioned, it basically primes your brain so that you don’t have to work hard at thinking of things to say during social situations; the socializing is automatic.

2. Increased energy

If you take the proper dose, you should notice increases in energy. Taking too high of a dose may result in jitteriness and/or bouncing off the walls. A slight increase in energy is normal and helps with the anxiety too.

3. Optimism

In many cases of anxiety disorders, sufferers feel an overwhelming sense of doom and pessimism. This drug stimulates activity in the brain to make you feel more optimistic.

4. Mood booster

The fact that this is a stimulant and releases dopamine typically makes people feel happier or a little more chipper than they normally would.

5. Sense of calmness

When taken at certain doses, this medication can actually make you feel calm and focused. You feel in control and as though you can handle anything.

Personal experience taking Adderall for anxiety disorder

I personally take Adderall to help my treatment resistant depression, but I have found that it also works wonders for my social anxiety. I take a very small dose of 5 mg as needed when I feel really down in the dumps. I also have a mix of schizoid and avoidant personality disorder traits, so taking this medication really helps when I need to be social.

Prior to using the medication, I was very anti-amphetamines. Having researched them and having spoken with my psychiatrist about them, he told me that they are among the safest medications out if used properly. The reason many people experience problems with Adderall is because they are misusing it. I certainly can see how people could become addicted to this medication with relative ease.

If you are a person with addictive tendencies, this probably isn’t a good option for you. I still limit myself to taking it only when I absolutely need it. I classify needing it as in significant social situations and when I feel deeply suicidal. I don’t like to take it often or at high doses because I don’t want my body to become conditioned to this powerful medication.  Additionally, there is sometimes a wicked Adderall crash that some people may not be able to handle – even at low doses.  In my opinion, this crash is still considerably more favorable than withdrawing from an antidepressant or anti anxiety medication.

Why prescribing Adderall for anxiety is NOT very common

If you have done your research on Adderall, you should know that it is a controlled substance and is not considered a first line treatment option for anxiety. It is primarily used to help individuals with ADD and/or ADHD. For these individuals it is thought to help stimulate activity that just isn’t there. Part of what causes anxiety in certain people is an actual underproduction of brain activity.

If you have an overstimulated brain, which is also common in anxiety, this may not be a good treatment option. Always work with a qualified psychiatrist when trying new medications and determine what you think will work best. Having taken this medication and trying it for myself, I understand why it’s not commonly prescribed for anxiety and tough to get.

Additionally, I want to make it clear that just because Adderall works for your anxiety does not mean that you originally had ADD or ADHD. Although anxiety can be a comorbid diagnoses with ADD, don’t automatically assume you have ADD or a variation because this drug works. This medication “works” for a lot of different things including narcolepsy.

In people without ADD and/or ADHD the potential for Adderall abuse increases significantly; hence it being a highly regulated substance.

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Jamie June 26, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Short-term, adderall may help with anxiety. Long-term, it really isn’t a good idea. I was prescribed adderall for ADHD, but I also have an anxiety disorder. It helped decrease anxiety at first, but after being on the drug for over a year, it did the exact opposite. It increases Dopamine and Norepinephrine. Raising Dopamine is dangerous and can cause stimulant psychosis in those susceptible to it, resulting in paranoid, anxiety, and hallucinations and Norepinephrine, an excititory neurotransmitter, can cause increase anxiety as well. The potential side effects outweigh the benefits of using it to treat anxiety disorders. Adderall is a drug that causes serious changes in the way the brain functions and serious withdrawal symptoms when trying to come off of it. A pill will not fix your problems. Sure, it may mask them. The best way to treat anxiety is through behavior modification. I would not promote the use of adderall to anyone with anxiety due to its negative side effects. This is also the reason why it isn’t used for anxiety disorders. I am having one hell of a time trying to detox from the drug, despite the fact that it’s causing so much damage physically and psychologically.

    • GLOOM March 5, 2014, 4:25 am

      Jamie, not everyone shares your same experience with this medication. Medications affect everyone in unique ways – regardless of the drug. Sorry about your tough time detoxing.

    • insider March 6, 2014, 1:47 am

      Jaime,
      I find what you have to say very interesting. Someone who has anxiety is pretty much crapping on others who take a different approach to dealing with something that will forever haunt and be with them. I would think you would be understanding of others who choose to approach their issues in a different way.
      So what if a pill is needed to make someone feel safe. Behavior modification can only do so much. With someone like me, I have such a sever case of anxiety/depression that I can barley even control my behaviors half the time and have tried behavior modification and only makes my anxiety worse due to the fact that I don’t make progress. And along with that I have tried talk therapy, yoga, holistic approaches in medicine, common SSRI’s, benzo’s, you name it.. I’ve tried and the one thing that has worked and turned my life around is Adderall.
      Yes, adderall can most certainly be addictive when abused and if someone has a doctor that does not approach the situation correctly. Starting at a low dosage and taking it as prescribed, one may form a dependency on the drug but everyone in life needs help and so what if for some people that help comes in the form of a pill. One can depend on a pill as a crutch just as an old person depends on a cane to walk, would you then say an elderly man/woman can’t depend on a cane to walk?
      With anxiety, when you try every other option and they all fail you, what’s wrong with turning to a pill? And who’s to say that those POSSIBLE sides effects outweigh the benefits from using this drug to help those with anxiety. Severe cases of anxiety stay with you for life, there’s no getting rid of it. It’s a mind set that debilitates ones brain.
      And that’s not to say that everyone with anxiety’s brain is the same, because each and every person with anxiety has a very different brain. Maybe your case of anxiety meshed with your brain differently than others and that’s why you feel so strongly about this topic. However, I speak from experience on the other side of the debate. And I am not saying your opinion is wrong, but you cannot categorize everyone with anxiety into one group just based off of your experiences with it. Quite frankly, that is very self-centered and biased thing to say that offends someone like myself who has suffered from extreme, debilitating anxiety for 6 years before Adderall saved me. Although I am only 20 years old, I have matured and grown a lot due to my struggle with anxiety and it’s forced me to grow up much faster than those around me that are my age. And when Adderall came into my life, I was at one of my lowest points and was just about ready to give up on life and with it’s help I was able to go back to school and get my LNA license and afford to live on my own without needing outside assistance. Now I’d say that pill allowed me to fix my problems.
      Adderall has saved my life. I have terrible anxiety and it would keep me locked in my house and lying in bed for days. In that situation I think a stimulant is needed otherwise it’s a never ending spiral downward with a deepening depression attached that does nothing but paralyze you. Would you still say a pill is not the answer? It’s a defection in some peoples brains that they cannot control and is all consuming.
      I take a pill to fix “A” problem that allows me to fix all the others on my own. It by no means masks my problems but brings them to light in a way that I am able to approach without feelings of fear, panic, confrontation, and depression.
      Not everyone is the same and to try and turn people away from something like this is wrong. Everyones brains are different and will react differently to different forms of medication, whether that be with a pill or “behavioral modification”. Please don’t assume everyones the same just because of an experience you had. I respect both sides of the argument. A stimulant is most certainly not going to fix some peoples forms of anxiety but others it could change their life forever, and in a good way.

      • maybehelping July 16, 2014, 7:55 pm

        I find that you are attacking (not debating) Jamie for giving a counter-point is rude.

        “what’s wrong with turning to a pill?”
        The problem is we have built an industry that has changed what should be a last resort into a first one. You think an old person would still want the cane if they don’t need it? Most happy old people, with a cane, I know tend to try to use it as little as possible as they don’t want to be completely dependent on it.

        Your blocks of texts remind me almost exactly of my mindset and demeanor in my early 20s.

        Please don’t take this as judgement if it doesn’t apply to you, this is honest advice coming from my first impression of you:

        If you stop trying to constantly sound like an “enlightened” know it all, people tend to like you better. I’d imagine a lot of your anxiety comes from “a world that doesn’t understand you”
        Stop thinking you are better than people. Once you make more friends Anxiety tends to ease (I still have it, but it is much better). The paranoia you have about most people not liking you IS REAL, because YOU ARE A KNOW-IT-ALL JERK. Be a better person to be around and people will like you better. Everything you said here is very useful and good information, but you come off as a total asshole when you say it.

    • Kakkoii September 20, 2014, 6:23 am

      Jamie, that’s different than what this article is talking about. Your experience is with sustained use of the drug, while this article talks about only using it sparingly to give yourself a boost here and there. This is a method I have used as well and it worked wonders for me. It gives you the opportunity to start becoming comfortable in social situations, to experience what it feels like to be normal. After a while, you condition yourself to not need the drug anymore, as you’re able to grow comfortable with life.

      There isn’t really anything else out there that can give a person with severe social anxiety the feeling of what it’s like to just be confident and happy, while not also drugged out of their mind. It’s a very valuable psychology experience, it’s therapy.

      • Sean October 7, 2014, 2:15 am

        I totally agree w/ you dude.

  • mike July 8, 2013, 8:25 pm

    Funny. I actually take xanax and it really doesn’t help my anxiety much anymore. I took 1 5mg Aderall for a few days and I jad no anxiety and it just made me feel normal. Can you substitute aderrall for xanax?

    • GLOOM March 5, 2014, 4:26 am

      Talk to your psychiatrist or a professional about it. It’s not a typical treatment option, just something to consider if traditional treatments aren’t working.

  • Melissa July 31, 2013, 12:42 pm

    This article describes me perfectly in terms of what taking Adderall does for me. It calms me and actually does calm my senses which is weird, because it “shouldn’t”. I have General Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia and a lot of my issues come from being very sensitive to my surroundings. I don’t know why it works for me or how, but it does. I don’t take it often – only as needed for certain events/occasion/situations, but when I do, it can be a real life-saver (theoretically speaking).

    • GLOOM March 5, 2014, 4:26 am

      Works the exact same way for me Melissa.

  • Lindsey August 7, 2013, 7:25 pm

    This has helped me out so much! I too have severe Social Anxiety, I’m in my house almost 24/7. I’m now perscribed Lexapro 20mg (was taking 10mg just about 2 weeks ago, but I upped it thinking it would help me more.) I’m also prescribed 2mg Xanax up to 3 times per day. I’ve noticed myself coming up short on the Xanax, because they’re both NOT taking care of my Social Anxiety. I noticed with my Daughter that she was very hyper, didn’t listen, had horrible tantrums, & wasn’t doing too great in school (especially reading.) Anyways, I took her to my psychiatrist & he put her on Adderall. First 7 days 5mg & then to try 10mg after that. I kept her on the 5mg for 11 days first and today put her on 10mg. It’s working wonders with her attitude, she’s more calm in a rough situation, she listens much better & she’s also hasn’t had not one tantrum. I’m very happy with her experience! Since she has these pills, I decided to try them, after talking to my friend who has the same issues and also after reading up on Adderall. I feel much calmer than normal. I feel like I want to go outside & actually get out of my house. Not that I’m running around like a maniac or anything. I just feel like I can accomplish the things I need to in a day. Before I tried it, I felt sad, useless, suicidal, & just plain crappy. I’m going to my psychiatrist this Friday to talk to him about putting me on Adderall as well. I hope that he will help me. I’m tired of trying other SSRI’s. I’ve gone through at least 7-10 of them in the past 2 years. Thanks for listening! Lindsey :)

    • GLOOM March 5, 2014, 4:27 am

      Good luck Lindsey, I hope you bounce back.

  • Laura August 11, 2013, 9:36 pm

    Will the stimulant make you prone to panic attacks? I get those. I just want to make sure before I ask my doctor about it.

    • GLOOM March 15, 2014, 10:34 pm

      With some people, yes it will make you more prone to anxiety… that’s why it’s not typically prescribed.

  • logicom September 23, 2013, 11:01 pm

    I have had similar experiences with Adderall, given that I take the proper dose. I suffer from general anxiety as well as an eating disorder, and have found that contrary to most of research I’ve done and what I have been told by my psychiatrist, Adderall has actually helped relieve some of my symptoms. I have found that I am calmer when studying (I usually experience intense anxiety when I take tests), and though I’m not sure if this is caused by being aware of the fact that focusing is easier, I just feel more confident and am able to perform better on tests. What is even stranger is that Adderall, which is supposed to suppress one’s appetite, has actually made it possible for me to eat meals without rushing through them due to feelings of intense anxiety. I also don’t feel such an intense urge to restrict my intake. I don’t know what you think about this, but I really do believe that my underproduction of brain activity is what causes my anxiety, because when I become incredibly anxious when I use cannabis or drugs that are supposedly helpful when “relaxing”.

  • Cynthia Alcott September 25, 2013, 10:52 pm

    Hello,

    I like very much that you are speaking to the subject of “counterintuitive” drug responses. When first diagnosed with ADHD,
    I was prescribed Adderol in accelerated dosing. From the outset it put me to sleep. I could barely work (high responsibility demanding high creativity) but my psychiatrist tripled original dose. I would get through long weeks, only to sleep until noon on weekends (and my little girl was five).

    Now that little girl is almost 19. She took an old Adderol on the morning of her ACT test last fall. It so calmed and focused her that she is now taking for anxiety, though sans ADHD.

    Lots of questions; lots of possibilities. You are good to share in such straightforward manner.

    Thanks!
    Cynthia

  • Cesar February 22, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Very good informative comments. They helped me as I am debating whether to take adderall for my add and social anxiety. My greatest fear is to get addicted. I’m not sure How to tell if I have an addictive personality or not. How can I find more about that? What helped you in this case?

    • GLOOM March 5, 2014, 4:29 am

      You can take an official personality test. Have you ever been addicted to anything in the past? If no, chances are you don’t have an addictive personality. I’d look more into this if in your shoes.

  • JW August 18, 2014, 8:41 pm

    I started taking Adderall because one of the things I have is ADHD, in addition to social anxiety and OCD. I have found the it does work wonders for my social anxiety. I wasn’t expecting that pleasant side effect at all because my DR warned it could make it worse. It might make OCD thoughts increase a little but at the same time when I’m on Adderall, I don’t worry about them as much. Still trying to figure it out long term, I’ve only been on it off and on since April. There is a crash when you go off it for a few days so I might start taking it 7 days a week till it no longer works. From what I hear it can lose its effectiveness over time with some people.

  • Bri December 10, 2014, 3:43 pm

    I am here because I am and have been dealing with PTSD for 12 yrs. My treatments have been with social workers and more VA doctors than I can count. I have tried every benzo and dosage and nothing really works. I basically feel tranquilized and no sense of well being, feeling of dread, social anxiety, and nightmares linger in the fog. I have problems with the focus of work and projects, let alone with communication and compassion problems with people. I have had a better time of things with this medication and Medical Grade pot (2 joints a day). This medication allows me to focus on the prize and not over stimulate on my surroundings. (I still notice every person in a waiting room and have my self comforting corks) the MG mellows me. It does not turn me into a drooling wet wash cloth on the couch with no self drive. I feel that this route of relief will never be mainstream and may not get the research.

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