ADHD, Depression, And The Link Between Them

Updated December 21, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For those who have ADHD, depression is seldom a stranger. On the other hand, it is not very common for young children to be diagnosed with depression, but that doesn't mean they might not experience a precursor of that condition. As for adults who have ADHD, a startling number of them report feeling depressed sometimes, and a clinical diagnosis is not uncommon. This begs the question: are people with ADHD more inclined to develop depression?

What Is ADHD?

In brief, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that affects a person's ability to pay attention, control their impulses, sit still, and sometimes manage their behavior. Scientists -aren't sure what causes ADHD. Still, they believe that a combination of brain chemistry, genetics, and environmental factors, including exposure to toxic chemicals during early childhood, brain injury, and low birth weight, could increase the likelihood of developing it.

This condition is usually detected during youth. Suppose you suspect your child may have ADHD. In that case, it's wise to get them evaluated by a specialist who can make a diagnosis after administering a series of cognitive tests and observing the child in various situations.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Inattention

  • Impulsiveness

  • Poor planning skills

  • Difficulty managing time

  • Mood swings and irritability

  • Lack of motivation

  • Restlessness

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Forgetfulness

Are You Living With ADHD And Depression?

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that affects 17 million adults and 2.7 million children aged 3 to 17 in the United States. It is usually characterized by a loss of interest in activities or a persistently glum or pessimistic mood. It can potentially cause significant impairment in daily life.

When it comes to depression, it is essential to understand that there's a difference between feeling unhappy for a couple of days and being diagnosed with clinical depression. Those who are momentarily painful can usually still function in their daily lives. Someone who has clinical depression might feel too sad to work, pay bills, or do other tasks that are essential to their lives. This depression can be profound, lasting, and go on for days or weeks if left untreated.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, despair, and hopelessness

  • Fatigue

  • Forgetfulness

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Mood swings, irritability, and anxiety

  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Changes in appetite

How Are Depression And ADHD Related?

At first glance, it would seem that one of these conditions might not have much to do with the other. If you have depression, you may feel low and not want to engage with the world or anything in it. You could withdraw and struggle to interact with anyone, even your loved ones and closest friends.

When you have ADHD, on the other hand, you may be capable of going out and being sociable. The hardships usually come from a lack of concentration skills.

Depression and ADHD don't always happen together, but it is possible for a person to struggle with both conditions simultaneously. When this happens, doctors call it comorbid or co-occurring conditions. Some symptoms of depression overlap with those of ADHD, so it can be hard to tell them apart. On some occasions, anger management issues and aggression could also be present

What Can Be Done About It?

When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, they may deal with depression at some point. Since doctors now recognize this, they will likely talk to the parents about the possibility before it manifests. But what preventative action can be taken?

Therapy

Therapy can help those diagnosed with ADHD to process their emotions. The condition can quickly isolate one from peers and the rest of the world. They might feel different, like something about them sets them apart. However, the CDC has found that behavior therapy is an effective treatment that can improve one's behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. 

 Speaking with a licensed therapist can have a positive impact on those diagnosed with ADHD, as well as depression. And with online therapy, individuals can talk to a licensed therapist whenever and wherever they feel comfortable. It also tends to be more affordable than in-person therapy. 

Coaching

Many individuals can teach a person diagnosed with ADHD some new techniques to better allow them to concentrate and conduct themselves in social situations.

Having ADHD is not a life sentence. The worst aspects of it can be mitigated when the person with it possesses the tools to think differently. Getting out of one's headspace or changing one's way of thinking can be taught. That's what ADHD coaches try to do. If you're looking for an ADHD coach, try to get a recommendation from your doctor or search the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) resource directory.

Medication

Content Warning: Please be advised the section below might mention topics that include prescription medication, abuse of drugs, and addiction. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.

Another way to improve symptoms of ADHD and the possible depression that sometimes goes along with it is with prescription drugs.

Stimulants are one family of drugs that are sometimes employed. It might seem counterintuitive to give stimulants to someone already perceived as hyperactive. Still, the name stimulant means that these medications increase the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This, in turn, boosts concentration and reduces hyperactivity and impulsivity.

For individuals with ADHD and clinical depression, antidepressants might be prescribed. Antidepressants can conceivably help with both ADHD symptoms and depression. The idea is to use them to "level out" chemicals in the brain that may be causing an unstable mood and give them a new baseline or equilibrium that will allow them to function better in the world.

With antidepressants, though, and any drugs that a doctor might prescribe in the case of ADHD or depression, a healthcare professional must monitor the situation very carefully. No one knows how each person will react to these drugs' administration. Each person's physiology is different, and what works wonderfully for one person might not work for someone else. A doctor might prescribe a few different combinations of drugs before the right one is discovered. 

Are You Living With ADHD And Depression?

A Combination Of Therapy And Drugs

In most cases, ADHD, depression, and the behaviors associated with both can be most effectively held at bay through a combination of drugs and therapy or coaching. It can take a while to land on exactly the right mix. But in time, the individual will hopefully land on a combination that will allow them to go about their daily routine in a non-disruptive way.

Takeaway

ADHD and depression sometimes co-occur in individuals. At times, their symptoms may even overlap and negatively impact a person's life. However, a combination of medications and therapy or coaching has been shown to improve symptoms and help individuals diagnosed with either condition to live productive, fulfilling lives. Online therapy is one convenient way to get help with comorbid ADHD and depression.

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