Why Women With ADHD Face an Elevated Risk for Depression

2 min read

ADHD and depression often co-occur. What’s more, having ADHD (especially undiagnosed ADHD) increases a person’s risk for depression. For women with ADHD, the risk for depression is elevated even more. 

In fact, women with ADHD are 2.5 times more likely to have major depressive disorder (MDD) than are women without ADHD. Depression also appears to exact a greater toll on women with ADHD, who tend to experience depression earlier, for longer durations, and with higher rates of suicidality, among other acute impairments.

What explains the higher risk for depression in women with ADHD?

“I think it’s because women are diagnosed [with ADHD] later,” said Nelson Handal, MD, in a webinar for ADDitudeHe explained that clinicians often miss ADHD in females because women and girls present with less apparent symptoms, not obvious ones like hyperactivity or impulsivity. Many women, he said, are diagnosed when they reach college.

“Think about it,” he said. “An 18-year-old goes to college, now she has to deal with ADHD — she doesn’t know she has it. She has to deal with all these life skills — cook, pay bills — all these things that they have to do that they didn’t do at home, and how they have to do it. They become extremely overwhelmed.”

To learn more about ADHD and comorbid depression, watch the full replay of Handal’s free ADDitude webinar, “New Insights Into and Treatments for Comorbid Depression.”

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