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Dyslexia and Anxiety

The Science Explains the Link Between Dyslexia and Anxiety

Dyslexia and Anxiety

Having a learning disorder like dyslexia can be stressful. Not fully understanding the scope of dyslexia can lead to feelings of confusion and lack of control. For many people feeling out of control can lead to anxiety. Therefore people who have dyslexia often have anxiety too.

Dyslexia is a genetic learning disorder that tends to run in families. Dyslexia affects about 5% to 10% of Americans. Symptoms of dyslexia can include slow reading, trouble spelling, and getting words mixed up. It is sometimes diagnosed in children, but others don't know they have it until they are adults

Many people with dyslexia don't understand its impact on learning and have often been ridiculed because of their misunderstandings. This can lead to years of self-doubt and insecurity when facing obstacles at school, work, or at home.

Here we will look at the correlation between dyslexia and anxiety, whether there is a link between dyslexia and other psychiatric disorders and whether or not stress makes dyslexia symptoms worse. We will also list some ways to cope with the anxiety associated with dyslexia.

Does Dyslexia Cause Anxiety?

Dyslexia and Anxiety

The short answer is no. Anxiety is more of a side effect of dyslexia as opposed to being caused by it. It tends to create anxiety in people who have a predisposition for anxiety. Many people with dyslexia do not suffer from anxiety.

The main focus of our early education is reading, writing, and spelling. Everything we learn early on is in preparation for reading. People with dyslexia struggle with almost every aspect of reading and writing. As a result, they are often ridiculed by their peers. This continued ridicule can create anxiety about upcoming lessons and the stress that accompanies them.

Without early intervention, people with dyslexia may develop low self-esteem, anxiety in social situations, depression, and other mental health issues. Unfortunately, the dyslexic child often acts out, skips school, or displays other behavioral problems resulting from their anxiety. Dyslexic children also have a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Which leads parents and teachers to believe the child's problems are behavioral in nature.

When undiagnosed dyslexic children with anxiety grow up to be adults with anxiety and dyslexia. Here are some symptoms of dyslexia in teens and adults:

  • Spelling problems
  • Difficulty with math
  • Trouble memorizing
  • Word recall problems
  • Slow reading and writing
  • Difficulty summarizing a story
  • Mispronouncing names or words
  • Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
  • Difficulty understanding phrases that have more than one meaning
  • Finishing reading and writing assignments in an allotted amount of time

Dyslexia manifests itself differently in everyone. Some people have a mild form of dyslexia that eventually learn how to manage. Other people have more trouble managing it. However, many people with dyslexia can go to graduate from college.

Does Stress Make Dyslexia Symptoms Worse?

Dyslexia and Anxiety

The short answer is yes. Stress is a chemical reaction that affects the body and the brain. Our bodies have an innate ability to react to stress. There are times when it can give us extraordinary strength in the face of a true physical threat. You've heard of a person being able to lift a car to free someone trapped underneath during times of extreme stress.

When we are faced with extreme stress, and there is no dragon to slay or car to be lifted, our brain gets flooded with the same types of chemicals, and things get out of balance. This can cause you to "freeze," either mentally or physically. So if a person with dyslexia has attempted and failed during similar situations over time, their body may sense the stress and send out warning signals telling them "that this task is way too difficult," causing them to retreat.

Research Study - Psychocognitive and Psychiatric Disorders Associated with Developmental Dyslexia: A Clinical and Scientific Issue

(Study found here)

Research shows that dyslexia rarely presents without the presence of other learning disabilities or psychiatric disorders. Some examples of these include:

  • ADHD
  • Late language development
  • Impaired motor development
  • Increased rate of anxiety disorders
  • Dyscalculia - Math learning disability

The study revealed inconclusive findings regarding depression in people with dyslexia. However, there was conclusive evidence of a persistent increase in the rate of dyslexia and anxiety disorders.

Tips for Managing Anxiety with Dyslexia

Dyslexia and Anxiety

Many people with dyslexia can develop skills to help them overcome the learning difficulties associated with being dyslexic. Here are some tips for parents and teachers to help ease anxiety in kids, and they can also be used for managing adult anxiety as well:

  • Education - adults and children need to learn how dyslexia might affect their performance at school, work, or social settings.
  • Preparation - people with dyslexia should look ahead and anticipate the problems they may encounter with new challenges.
  • Self-awareness - learn the skills of honest self-assessment and the ability to learn from and correct errors.
  • Strategize - learn strategies to maximize success and minimize frustration and failure.
  • Exercise - engage in regular and vigorous exercise to reduce stress and improve brain power.
  • Reduce the threat - recognize and deactivate stress triggers.

A Final Word

Whether you are an adult with dyslexia looking for ways to be less anxious or a parent looking for ways to understand and support your dyslexic child, there are many great resources for dyslexia education. The International Dyslexia Association offers a wealth of information on dyslexia in children, teens, and adults.

The key for both children and adults to overcome the anxiety associated with dyslexia is to learn to master their environment, whether it is school, home, or in a social setting. Gaining control through confidence is a sure way to control and eventually overcome dyslexia related anxiety.


  1. https://www.webmd.com/children/understanding-dyslexia-basics
  2. https://homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com/anxiety-and-dyslexia/
  3. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/dyslexia-and-anxiety-in-children
  4. https://dyslexiaida.org/the-dyslexia-stress-anxiety-connection/
  5. https://dyslexiaida.org/


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