April 11


ADHD and Depression: Are The Two Linked?

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

April 11, 2021

People with ADHD have a higher likelihood of developing depression or other mood disorders. In fact, studies have shown that 30% of individuals with ADHD will experience depression or have a mood disorder in their lifetime. Both conditions can have symptoms of restlessness and boredom, and some ADHD medications can also cause depression-like symptoms. Early diagnosis of both conditions will help with the management of the symptoms. Behavioral therapy can be used for symptom management, along with talk therapy and medication.

ADHD Types & Symptoms

ADHD vs. Depression
Image via Pixabay by ColiN00B

As with many conditions, the symptoms vary from person to person. ADHD symptoms appear before the age of 12 but can be noticeable as early as 3 years old, and may continue into adulthood. Common ADHD symptoms in children include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. In adults, it may cause difficulties with time management, organization, goal setting, and employment. There are three different subtypes of ADHD you can have, depending on your predominant symptoms.

Predominantly Inattentive ADHD

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria, there are nine official symptoms associated with predominantly inattentive ADHD, and these symptoms may intrude or interfere in their daily functioning at work, in social situations, or with loved ones. Although nearly everyone experiences inattention problems at times, people with the predominantly inattentive ADHD most frequently experience the following symptoms

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Often making mistakes that appear careless
  • Struggling to organize thoughts
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Not following through on instructions
  • Forgetting routine chores
  • Avoiding tasks that require long periods of mental focus
  • Losing items needed to complete tasks
  • Does not appear to be listening when spoken to directly

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD manifests with a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. This type of ADHD can often be misdiagnosed as stress or emotional issues. It is also less common, as hyperactivity tends to lessen with age. The most frequently associated symptoms with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD include:

  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Trouble sitting still and doing quiet tasks such as reading
  • Excessive running (children often appear as if “driven by a moto)”
  • Jumping or climbing on furniture and other inappropriate places
  • Not having patience
  • Struggling with self control
  • Excessive talking (often described as a “chatterbox”)
  • Blurting out comments at inappropriate times
  • Interrupting conversations or speaking out of turn
  • Trouble waiting for a turn or standing in line

Combination ADHD

Combination ADHD involves a presentation of symptoms from both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. While this type may sound more intense or worse, it does not necessarily mean your ADHD is more severe than someone diagnosed with the former two types. Being diagnosed with combination ADHD simply means that your symptoms are more evenly distributed between the two types, instead of heavily favoring one type.

Depression Types & Symptoms

Depression is close to three times as common in people diagnosed with ADHD than in the general population. Medical or mental health practitioners should address symptoms of depression that have lasted more than two weeks. Depression symptoms that prevent going to school or work, socialization, or include thoughts of self-harm or suicide require immediate help. Depression – similarly to ADHD – is broken down into two subtypes: primary and secondary, with the distinguishing factor being the cause.

Primary Depression

Primary depression tends to run in families and can occur for no apparent reason, that is, there isn’t any internal or external events that trigger feelings of sadness or despair. In primary depression, symptoms are often more severe and more persistent.

Secondary Depression

Secondary depression occurs because of something, such as a traumatic life event, anxiety, hysteria, sociopathy, or (you guessed it) ADHD. Secondary depression in adults with ADHD can results from years of low self esteem. This is especially common in adults who weren’t properly treated for ADHD as a kid, as their childhood was more likely to be filled with academic or social issues.

Depression Symptoms

Despite there being two different subtypes of depress, the symptoms remain the same across the board and can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness persist
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability, frustration, or restlessness are frequent
  • Losing interest in enjoyable activities
  • Having difficulty paying attention
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Aches and pains that can’t be explained
  • Sleeping pattern disruptions
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy

How Do ADHD and Depression Symptoms Overlap?

ADHD and depression have some shared symptoms that may overlap and cause some confusion between the two conditions. Restlessness and boredom are common symptoms of both ADHD and depression. Symptoms resembling depression are possible side effects of ADHD medications, including sleep disruptions, loss of appetite, mood swings, and feelings of fatigue and restlessness.

Similarities between ADHD and depression can cause difficulty in diagnosis. Both conditions can affect the ability to focus, as well as cause hyperactivity in children.

Difficulty coping with ADHD symptoms can also lead to depression. ADHD can cause issues in school and work, creating a sense of hopelessness or other depression-like symptoms. Emotions tied to ADHD are changing based on setbacks and other issues. Emotions of depressed individuals are typically flat, with individuals chronically in a depressive mood.

Motivation levels of those with ADHD are affected by the inability to decide what to do next. Motivation levels of depressed individuals are typically low, with limited ability to initiate activities. Sleep is also affected by both conditions. People with ADHD have trouble falling asleep, while people with depression often fall asleep but are woken up by anxiety frequently.

Risks of ADHD Leading to Depression

People diagnosed with ADHD have a greater chance of developing depression in childhood and adulthood. Both conditions have genetic links, with higher rates for those with a parent or family member who has been diagnosed.

Males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, but females with ADHD are more likely to become depressed than males with ADHD. Depression is more likely in individuals with predominantly inattentive type ADHD or the combined type of ADHD when compared to those with the hyperactive-impulsive type. Children whose mothers had depression or serotonin impairment during pregnancy also have a higher chance of being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, or both.

Treating ADHD and Depression

As with any medical issue, early diagnosis and treatment are the best way to manage both ADHD and depression symptoms. Medications, behavioral therapy, and talk therapy are the most common treatments. Some treatments benefit both conditions — for example, antidepressants may ease ADHD symptoms. Stimulant medications are commonly used for ADHD. Behavioral therapy helps people cope with symptoms, while talk therapy can help depression and stress.

Medical professionals may choose to prioritize treatment for people with both conditions for the one that’s causing more issues. Treating the condition that’s causing more problems likely will resolve symptoms of the secondary condition.

ADHD can be treated with stimulants that increase brain chemicals connected to the ability to focus and think. Side effects include loss of appetite, headaches, and sleep disruptions. ADHD medications that don’t have stimulants have fewer side effects. Doctors may prescribe a combination of the two types of medications.

Depression treatments significantly help between 80% and 90% of sufferers, with most everyone experiencing some improvement. Depression is commonly treated with antidepressants, which also may have side effects. Children and teenagers who take antidepressants should be watched for side effects that could include thoughts of suicide. Antidepressants may ease ADHD symptoms and may be used with or in place of stimulants for treating ADHD.

As with any condition therapy, a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise will help the symptoms.

Contact NeuroHealth in Arlington Heights, IL Today!

ADHD and depression are conditions that commonly coexist. A variety of therapies and medication can help both children and adults recognize and better manage the symptoms of ADHD and depression. Early diagnosis is important so the symptoms can be addressed. Some ADHD treatments may ease depression symptoms and vice-versa. Medical professionals will work with families to determine the best approach. If you or a family member have concerns about ADHD or depression, contact NeuroHealth Arlington Heights and learn more about diagnosis and treatment options for children, teens, and adults.

NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.