Up to 30% of children who have ADHD also have a serious mood disorder like depression. And some experts say that more than half of people who have the condition will get treatment for depression at some point in their lives.
What’s the Connection?
Some symptoms of ADHD and depression are a lot alike, and that can make it tough to diagnose and treat those conditions. For example, trouble with focus is one of the signs of both depression and ADHD. And if you take medicines to help with your ADHD symptoms, they may affect your sleep or eating habits -- both of those can be signs of depression, too. In children, hyperactivity and irritability can be symptoms of depression as well as ADHD.
Also, ADHD can lead to depression when people have a hard time with their symptoms. Children may have trouble getting along in school or with playmates, or adults may have issues at work. That can lead to deep feelings of hopelessness and other signs of depression.
Doctors don’t know what causes either condition, but they both seem to be linked to your family history. People with depression or ADHD often have a parent or other family member who has it as well.
Treating ADHD and Depression
Treatment for both conditions usually involves a combination of medication and meetings with a therapist.
- ADHD is often treated with stimulants that boost brain chemicals linked to focus and thinking. They can help with symptoms while you're at school or work, but they can also make you less hungry or cause headaches or sleep problems.
- Some ADHD drugs don’t involve stimulants and don’t have the same side effects. But they may not work as quickly. Your doctor might give you a combination of stimulants and non-stimulant drugs.
- Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to treat depression. These can take several weeks to work and may have side effects, including thoughts of suicide. Children or teenagers in particular should be watched closely while taking them.
- Antidepressants may also help with the symptoms of ADHD, either in place of stimulants or as part of a combination of drugs to treat both conditions.
Psychotherapy can offer ways to manage your symptoms and live a healthy life. A therapist can give you strategies to deal with everyday challenges, such as issues with friends, family, work, or school.