Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
To understand the complexity of ADHD depression, it is essential to look at each condition separately to better understand if you may be experiencing the signs and symptoms concerning both disorders.
What Is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that can cause an individual to have above-average levels of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors, causing extreme difficulties in their ability to focus on one task for an extended period. ADHD can affect both children and adults and is non-discriminatory when it comes to age. Still, the disorder is typically diagnosed throughout the childhood and adolescent years. ADHD is also non-discriminatory when it comes to gender. However, research indicates that the disorder is prominently diagnosed in males rather than females. This discrepancy could also be due to the fact that symptoms in girls can be harder to notice, and therefore may be more likely to go undiagnosed. ADHD Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Difficulty remaining focused or concentrated on simple tasks
- Forgetfulness when it comes to completed tasks
- Interrupting others while they are speaking
Types Of ADHD
ADHD can be thought of as an umbrella term that can be categorized into three different types in order to make the diagnosis of the mental disorder more consistent throughout each case.
Predominantly Inattentive Type
Predominantly inattentive individuals will experience extreme difficulty focusing, following instructions, and completing tasks. These tendencies may be unnoticeable in a child until they attend school. However, in adults, this can easily be noticed during social situations or in their line of employment. An individual with inattentive type ADHD may also:
- Procrastinate on beginning tasks such as homework or chores.
- Be extremely disorganized with their thoughts and in their environment.
- Have a tendency to make careless mistakes.
- Have trouble staying on one topic when speaking, not listening to others talk, and/or have difficulty following social rules.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
Individuals diagnosed with this type of ADHD tend to conduct hyperactive and impulsive behaviors such as interrupting others by blurting out information while speaking, fidgeting or feeling restless, and not being able to wait their turn. The extent to which these behaviors manifest will vary depending on the age and individual; however, these symptoms will always be present before adolescence. An individual with hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD may:
- Speak excessively
- Fidget when seated
- Have difficulty playing quietly
- Run or climb objects in situations where it is not appropriate to do so
Further, in young children, ADHD tends to manifest in behaviors such as always being in motion, jumping on furniture, or having difficulty participating in activities in which they are forced to sit for a long time. Whereas in teens and adults, hyperactivity is known to appear as feelings of restlessness and the difficulty of remaining quiet during activities, even in circumstances in which extended inactivity is required.
Combined Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive Type
This is the most prevalent type of ADHD. When an individual has a combination type of ADHD, they will experience various symptoms mentioned above. Although these symptoms occur from time to time in children without the disorder, the frequency in children diagnosed with the combination type of ADHD can have difficulty with some activities or practices in their day-to-day life.
Diagnosis Of ADHD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) offers licensed medical professional guidelines in determining whether an individual has ADHD or not. The DSM-5 focuses on the patterns of impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity and documented behavior from parents, teachers, and others to help provide a diagnosis of ADHD. Adults must meet at least five or more criteria in the DSM-5 to have an ADHD diagnosis. In contrast, a child must complete at least six specific behaviors. Remember that an official diagnosis and treatment plan can only come from a licensed professional.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a common and severe mood disorder that negatively affects how individuals may feel, think, and behave. Individuals with depression experience persistent sadness and hopelessness that can lead to a loss of interest to complete day to day tasks and activities that were once enjoyed. Depression can also lead to an individual's ability to function normally at school, work, or home. Depression occurs in both males and females and can be diagnosed at any age in life. Symptoms of depression may vary from mild to severe and must be persistent for a least two weeks. People with depression may experience:
- Changes in appetite (weight gain or loss that is unrelated to dieting and exercising).
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Overthinking, concentrating, and making decisions.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
The Connection Between Depression And ADHD
The combination of ADHD with another mental disorder can often present extra challenges for the individual with the diagnosis and the people around them. In some cases, ADHD and depression can occur comorbidly, meaning an individual can simultaneously experience both disorders. This occurs due to both disorders' symptoms being quite similar, causing them to overlap. For example, having difficulty focusing on day to day tasks is a sign of both ADHD and depression.
It is also common for individuals with ADHD to develop depression when they experience difficulty with their ADHD symptoms in school or work environments and forming friendships or relationships with other people, thus leading to a feeling of hopelessness and deep sadness. The co-existence of ADHD and depression can also cause an individual to experience an inability to manage negative emotions such as anger and frustration as they are unable to regulate their behaviors in a meaningful way.
Additionally, ADHD can cause an individual difficulty in focusing on everyday tasks that are uninteresting. The co-occurrence with depression can also cause an individual to lose interest in generally exciting activities.
You must consult your medical doctor to determine if your symptoms are related to ADHD or depression. These two conditions are also not mutually exclusive, and an individual can be diagnosed with depression and ADHD.
What Are Some Contributors To Developing Depression From An ADHD Diagnosis?
If you have already been diagnosed with ADHD, several variables can put you at risk of developing depression.
Sex And Age
While you are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if you are a male, research indicates that females with ADHD are more likely to develop depression due to their ADHD symptoms. Additionally, children who have been diagnosed with ADHD at a younger age are also at higher risk of developing childhood depression than children without ADHD.
Researchers have also found that people who have been diagnosed with predominantly inattentive type ADHD or the combined type of ADHD have more of a chance of experiencing depression than those with hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD.
Prevalence Of Comorbid ADHD Depression
One in three people who have been diagnosed with ADHD have also been diagnosed with depression or experienced a depressive episode. Research also indicates that approximately 18.6% of adults are affected by ADHD depression. Additionally, research shows that up to 30% of children have a type of mood disorder. Although ADHD and depression can occur comorbidly, an appropriate diagnosis and treatment can help individuals with ADHD effectively manage their symptoms and reduce their risk of developing depression.
Speak With Your Doctor About ADHD Depression
One of the best ways to treat ADHD depression is to diagnose and treat the conditions as early as possible. However, your treatment may begin with which mental disorder causes you the most difficulty in your everyday life. When a person is diagnosed with ADHD and depression, they are typically treated with a series of therapeutic meetings and techniques. However, it is suggested that you consult with your doctor to find out what forms of treatment work best for you and your unique needs. With the proper treatment, you can begin to relieve the symptoms you are experiencing and develop positive coping mechanisms to improve your focus and boost your self-esteem.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
One of the most common talk therapy methods used to treat these mental disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a one-on-one approach that is conducted by a licensed therapist. CBT helps individuals become aware of their harmful and inaccurate forms of thinking using a goal-oriented approach to reprogram how they respond to stressful and challenging situations. CBT has been proven to lead to significant improvements in the functioning and quality of life of those who suffer from mental disorders, including ADHD and depression.
For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional for more details.
What You Can Do Today
Living with an ADHD depression diagnosis can be challenging. After reading this, you may be left wondering if you or someone you love may be experiencing the signs and symptoms of both ADHD and depression listed above. Taking a depression screening quiz can be a good starting point for finding out whether you should seek a professional's help. This quiz should not be treated as a formal diagnosis. After completing the online quiz, we recommend reaching out to a counselor for further resources and treatment options. With the right support, you can navigate your diagnosis and lead a happy and fulfilling life.