Reply To: How to motivate college-age child with ADD & depression

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Dr. Eric

It can be both.

The depression can be its own, stand-alone issue, especially if there is family history and it is a more organic, brain chemistry flavor of depression.

There is also what we call things “secondary to ADHD”… That is, those things that we know are related to ADHD, but not a direct symptom.

This can be anything that is the direct result of the frustration of the challenges of ADHD.
Knowing that you are smart, but not getting the grades, or outcomes, or friends, or etc. due to the ADHD will create frustration, sadness, isolation, etc. that add up. At a certain point, it can become its own issue.

How to treat it, depends on how related to the ADHD it is, and how much it takes a life of its own.
If we catch it early, treating the ADHD often is enough, and treating depression without treating the ADHD is often not enough…

Think of this analogy… if someone is depressed about not having a job, I would help them get a job before talking about their feelings about not having a job.
I don’t want to see them get a pill that makes them feel ok with unemployment.
However, if their depression makes it hard to apply to jobs or causes them to do poorly (or not show up) at the interviews, the depression needs to be treated directly.

If the frustration of life with ADHD is causing you to feel bad about yourself, we want to fix the ADHD.
However, there will be a tipping point where we need to address both.

With that said, short of being a danger for self or others, there is little to nothing you can make an adult do outside of being supportive and the person and of treatment.