Depression and ADHD

How ADHD’s connection with depression can affect you and your child.

A teen girl is in bed, depressed, which requires a different ADHD treatment strategy.
A teen girl is in bed, depressed, which requires a different ADHD treatment strategy.

How common is depression among people who have ADHD?

Very. Some estimates claim that up to 70% of ADHD people will be treated for depression at some point in their life. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that nearly half of all children with ADHD also suffer from conditions such as depression, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders.

Does depression tend to run in families?

Yes. Research conducted by the University of Western Australia found that mothers of ADHD children were more likely to experience depression. Alcoholism, substance abuse disorders, nervous breakdowns, learning disabilities and ADHD were also more common among this group of mothers.

What are the symptoms of depression?

If five or more of the following symptoms have been present in either you or someone you know for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor about the possibility of depression being present. Keep in mind that these symptoms could indicate a medical condition other than depression. To qualify for diagnosis, there must be no reasonable explanation, such as divorce, death of a loved one, or other traumatic event that could be affecting the individual.

  • Feelings of sadness and/or irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions
  • Constant fatigue or loss of energy
  • Observable restlessness or decreased activity
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

In addition, look for at least three of the following symptoms, which could indicate the manic phase of manic-depression:

  • Inflated ego, envisioning of grand schemes
  • Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
  • Inappropriate excitement or irritability
  • Increased talking and/or moving
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Disconnected and racing thoughts
  • Impulsive behavior and poor judgment

How successful is treatment for depression?

Very. New medications and and a better understanding of the disorder have helped. The American Psychiatric Association says that the majority (80%-90%) of people who receive treatment experience significant improvement, and almost all individuals experience some benefit from medical care.

Does having ADHD make treatment for depression more difficult?

One could argue that having ADHD makes everything more difficult, but that’s not the point. Yes, treating any comorbidity is more complex than treating a single disorder.

Can children have depression?

Yes. Unfortunately, children are not immune. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that as many as one in ten children between the ages of 6 and 12 experience persistent feelings of sadness – a sign of depression. In all, between 3 to 6 million children suffer from clinical depression. Many of these also have ADHD.

What are the signs of a depressed child?

Much the same as a depressed adult. See Is Your Child Depressed?, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, for more information.

How extensive is depression among adolescents?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years old, and it appears to be on the rise. According to a 1991 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 27% of high school students thought about suicide, 16% had a plan, and 8% made an attempt. Even so, suicide is extremely rare, with only one-quarter of one percent of teens actually completing the act. Seek professional help immediately if you have had thoughts about suicide.

Studies show that the desire to commit suicide is inconsistent. People who feel suicidal one day may not feel that way the next. There are many excellent treatments for depression and these should be your first option. For further information contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at

The Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration has declared adolescent suicide as a national mental health problem.

Are all people who have depression poets?

No. Some of us are depressed because we’re not poets. There does appear to be some link between creativity and depression, just as there appears to be a link between creativity and ADD. More research needs to be done in these positive areas of mental illnesses.