Telling ADHD and Depression Apart
To complicate matters, doctors may mistake ADHD for depression. Differentiating the conditions can be difficult because both disorders bring mood problems, forgetfulness, an inability to focus, and lack of motivation. There are, however, subtle distinctions between ADHD-induced symptoms and those caused by depression.
EMOTIONS. ADHD can cause dark moods, but these are usually linked to specific setbacks. The bad feelings tend to be transient. In contrast, mood problems associated with depression are generally pervasive and chronic, often lasting weeks or months.
And, unlike the bad feelings caused by ADHD (which often begin showing up in childhood), depression typically doesn’t develop until adolescence or later.
MOTIVATION. With ADHD, it seems impossible to accomplish anything, because you’re “in a dither and can’t decide what to do first,” says Roberta Tsukahara, Ph.D., a psychologist in Austin. “With depression, it’s more that you’re lethargic and can’t initiate any activity.”
SLEEP DIFFICULTIES. With ADHD, the problem usually occurs while falling asleep; the mind refuses to "turn off", and keeps adding things to the next day’s to-do list. In contrast, people who are depressed tend to fall asleep readily, but wake up repeatedly during the night (and early in the morning). At each awakening, the mind is filled with negative or anxious thoughts.