Depression

Is It Depression or ADHD? Or Both?

Roughly one quarter of all adults with ADHD also experience symptoms of depression. Learn how to recognize signs of depression, assess treatment options, and reclaim your health.

A man puts his head in his hands and wonders how to be a better dad to his ADHD son.
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The Bad News and Good News

Depression is nearly three times more common in people with ADHD, than it is in the general population. But there are many treatments for depression that work equally well for everyone. When treated, 80-90% of people suffering from depression experienced significant improvement, and almost all experienced some gains. Read on to learn to recognize depression symptoms.

[Self-Test: Depression in Adults]

Conflict Between ADHD Couple
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The 2 Types of Depression

Primary Depression: Typically inherited, and occurs without being preceded by an unpleasant circumstance or event.

Secondary Depression: Occurs as a direct consequence of the chronic frustration and disappointment of living with untreated ADHD. Often occurs in adults whose ADHD wasn’t recognized or treated when they were younger. They’ve accepted the idea that they’re lazy, stupid, or not good enough to succeed socially or professionally.

Group ADHD therapy in session sitting in a circle
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Recognizing Depression

Depression is marked by feelings of sadness for much of the day, nearly every day. Other symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained aches and pains

If you’ve had one or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, consult a doctor or mental-health professional. If you’re thinking about suicide, or if you feel so bad that you can’t work or are avoiding people, seek help as soon as possible.

[“I Live With Both ADHD and Depression”]

ADHD teen has depression
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Recognizing Depression in Children

Children ages 6 to12 can have depression, and the signs are similar to those seen in depressed adults. The AAP estimates that nearly half of all kids with ADHD also suffer from conditions like depression, LD, and anxiety disorders. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 24 years, and depression is thought to be on the rise. If you think your child might be depressed, learn more here.

Annoyed ADHD woman using mobile phone in coffee shop
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Recognizing Manic Depression

If you experience three or more of the following in two weeks, you could have manic depression:

  • Inflated ego
  • Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
  • Inappropriate excitement or irritability
  • Increased talking
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsive behavior and poor judgment

[How to Treat Depression]

Man with ADHD has trouble sleeping
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ADHD or Depression?

Both disorders bring mood problems, forgetfulness, and inability to focus, but there are slight differences.

Emotions: ADHD moods are transient, precipitated by a setback. Depressive moods are pervasive & chronic.

Motivation: Individuals with ADHD are overwhelmed by deciding what to do first. Depressed people are lethargic and can’t initiate any activity.

Sleep: People with ADHD can’t fall asleep. Depressed people fall asleep right away, but wake many times during the night with anxiety.

Nurse holding ADHD patient's hands
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What to Treat First

If you're diagnosed with ADHD and depression, treat the condition that causes the greater problems first, not both at the same time. Most antidepressants work well alongside ADHD stimulant meds.

If depression is secondary to ADHD, try minor lifestyle adjustments, like exercising more to normalize mood, meditating, or making sure to guard against idleness, since dark moods can come on when there is nothing to do.

People with ADHD run
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Treating Depression

The goal is to reduce frequency and intensity of symptoms that get in the way of living a happy life. Work with your doctor to find appropriate medications, and also try lifestyle changes:

  • Sleep at least 7 hours.
  • Spend at least 30 min outdoors daily.
  • Try light therapy.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Reduce carb intake.
  • Try to eliminate stress.
Create a monthly chart with categories for sleep, exercise, sunshine, green time, nutrition, and stress in the left hand margin. Mark a check for each category in which you succeed. Try to earn at least 3 checks a day for the first month. Then, rate your anxiety every day on a scale of 1 to 10.
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Chart Your Progress

Create a monthly chart with categories for sleep, exercise, sunshine, green time, nutrition, and stress in the left-hand margin. Mark a check for each category in which you succeed. Try to earn at least 3 checks a day for the first month. Then, rate your anxiety every day on a scale of 1 to 10.