ADHD and Depression: Common Partners

ADHD and Depression: Common Partners

By Attention Deficit Connect StaffA October 3, 2011 3,603 2

The bad news: Depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often exist together. The good: There are effective treatments for both, and with correct diagnosis and care, symptoms can be alleviated.
Depression is estimated to be 2.7 times more common among adults with ADHD than among the general adult population. In fact, previous studies have estimated that anywhere from 16 percent to 37 percent of adults with ADHD have also been diagnosed with major depressive disorder or dysthymia, a milder form of depression.

A new study shows the same trend holds true for children with ADHD. Researchers found young children with ADHD were about four times more likely than their peers to become depressed or attempt suicide in later childhood and adolescence. The study followed 125 children with ADHD for up to 14 years, beginning at ages 4 to 6, as well as a similar group of children without ADHD.

So, why are people with ADHD more likely to also have depression? In some cases, the person may have a family history of depression that increases their genetic risk of depression. This depression strikes without major events, conflicts or difficulties.

But for many, the two conditions are directly related. ADHD makes people’s lives harder, so it makes sense that they may become discouraged or frustrated. This is especially true for people who have dealt with the difficulty of untreated or poorly managed ADHD. In these cases, the symptoms of ADHD – difficulty in social/interpersonal relationships, career or school struggles, disorganization and more – can predispose people to develop depressive symptoms.

To make the situation more difficult, the symptoms of both conditions are similar, making it easy to confuse diagnoses. ADHD and depression can both lead to mood disorders, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating or completing tasks, irritability and poor sleep.

But once you get into the details, there are distinctions between the two. For example, ADHD tends to be life long and affects most aspects of a person’s life, whereas depression is more episodic and generally comes later in life. Review other symptoms of ADHD and depression here and here, respectively.

There is some question as to whether to treat depression or ADHD first when they appear concurrently. Generally, physicians may start with whichever is the most debilitating. In cases where frustrations with ADHD are believed to be causing the depression, doctors may treat the ADHD first to see if reducing those symptoms also lessens depression. But if the depression persists, despite effective ADHD treatment, an antidepressant may also be prescribed. Most effective remedies for depression work just as well for adults with ADHD as they do for others.

If someone is worried they or someone they care for is showing symptoms of ADHD or depression, they should consult a mental health professional. Early intervention and treatment are important, as the risk of depression and other health problems associated with ADHD can last well into adulthood.

Discuss this article and share your experiences with ADHD and depression in the discussion section.

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