ADHD and Depression

ADHD and depression are often closely linked in both children and adults. In fact, approximately one quarter of all adults with ADHD also show symptoms of depression and children with ADHD have a risk of depression that is three times greater than those who do not have ADHD. Recent studies show that as many as 30 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD also suffer from depression.

It is often very difficult to distinguish between ADHD symptoms and depression symptoms. When ADHD and depression occur simultaneously, it can make the diagnosis and treatment of both issues much more difficult.   Many symptoms of depression and ADHD are similar, increasing the likelihood of doctors misdiagnosing their patients.


Symptoms specific to depression but not found in ADHD patients include:

  • Insomnia
  • Contemplating suicide
  • Lower energy and feelings of fatigue
  • Sudden, unexplained weight changes
  • Less interaction with others
  • Depressed mood
  • Talking slowly
  • Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities
  • Having a feeling that bad things are about to happen

Symptoms specific to ADHD that are not found in patients with depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Disorganization
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling out of control

When compared to those who just have ADHD, people with both depression and ADHD have:

  • Higher instances of generalized anxiety disorder
  • Higher instances of social phobia
  • Are more anxious
  • Have more trouble both socially and in school

It is also important to note that depression is categorized as a collection of specific symptoms and persists over time. Just feeling sad about something temporarily does not necessarily qualify as clinical depression. If you have any questions regarding the specific definition of depression, it is best to speak with your doctor.


Researchers used to believe that people with ADHD and depression, exhibited symptoms of depression as a side effect of ADHD. These researchers hypothesized that patients felt frustrated or incompetent due to ADHD-related difficulties, which caused depressed symptoms. As a result of this line of thinking, doctors often treated the ADHD symptoms only and assumed that the depression symptoms would improve along with the ADHD. In recent years, research has shown that while ADHD frequently occurs in conjunction with depression, they are still two separate diagnoses and should be treated separately. Fixing one of these issues will not necessarily fix the other.


Fortunately, doctors can easily treat both ADHD and depression with the use of behavioral therapy, medications targeted towards depression and ADHD, or a mix between the two methods. Since symptoms of depression and ADHD overlap, some doctors prefer to focus on treating the depression symptoms first. Once the depression symptoms are under control, they can then focus on treating the ADHD. This implies that depression is the primary diagnosis and ADHD is a secondary diagnosis. Other doctors believe that the conditions are related and consequently, it is more effective to treat both conditions at the same time. However, sometimes complications can occur from combining medications for the two disorders. Depression medication may actually lessen the effect of ADHD medication or vice versa.

› ADHD and Depression

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