Is There a Link Between ADHD and Depression?

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adhd and depression

ADHD and depression often coexist. This means that someone may have symptoms from both of these disorders at the same time. Read on to learn more about the link between ADHD and depression.

ADHD is a brain disorder that affects both children and adults. Among the adults with ADHD, about 19% also struggle with depression. Also, many of the symptoms of ADHD cross over as symptoms of depression. This can muddy the waters and make it hard to define the disorders as either distinct or co-occurring. Let’s first take a look at each of these mental health challenges for a better understanding.

Learn About Depression

Depression is a type of mood disorder that impacts nearly 21 million Americans each year. Depression is about twice as likely to affect women and is higher in the younger age groups.

Signs and symptoms of depression last more than two weeks and may include:

  • Persistent low mood.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and despair.
  • Trouble paying attention.
  • Excessive sleeping or insomnia.
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in eating habits; sudden weight gain or loss.
  • Crying with no specific cause.
  • Mood swings.
  • Slowed movements or thoughts.
  • Irrational feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Physical symptoms not explained, such as headaches, body aches, and digestive problems.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Learn About ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neural development disorder. It is mostly diagnosed in school-aged children, and may or may not resolve over time. Adults also can get ADHD, although it is thought to be undiagnosed from childhood in most cases. ADHD afflicts 4.4% of U.S. adults, with about twice as many men as women being affected.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  • Trouble staying on task.
  • Poor organizational and time management skills.
  • Mood swings.
  • Late for appointments or meetings.
  • Chronic boredom.
  • Low-stress tolerance.
  • Forgetful
  • Poor listening skills.
  • Disorganized
  • Impulsive
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The adverse knock-on effects of ADHD can lead to job loss and career disruption. Those who struggle with impulsivity may be prone to substance abuse and related problems, which may trigger depression.

What is the Link Between ADHD and Depression?

When discussing a link between ADHD and depression, it is important to note there are two ways to look at it:

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1) The symptoms of ADHD and depression overlap, so it may appear as depression when it is really the ADHD.

2) The effects of ADHD on someone’s life may be so negative that it leads to depression. In that case, it would truly be two co-occurring disorders.

The challenge is in making a correct diagnosis. Because of the overlap between the two disorders, it will take a careful assessment to discern an accurate diagnosis. With so little understanding about the causes of both ADHD and depression, it can make diagnosing a challenge.

Treatment for ADHD and Depression

When it has been determined that someone does indeed have both ADHD and depression, they will benefit from receiving psychiatric expertise. This is because these disorders typically use two totally different types of drugs to manage them. ADHD treatment involves a stimulant, and depression treatment uses mostly SSRIs.

First, the mental health expert must determine which disorder is dominant. This helps guide the treatment protocol. Treatment of ADHD with co-occurring depression involves:

  • Medication. The doctor prescribes drugs to help reduce the symptoms of each disorder. For ADHD they may prescribe Adderall or Vyvanse, which are both stimulants that help quiet down neural activity. For depression, they will prescribe an antidepressant. These drugs take several weeks to produce results.
  • Therapy. Talk therapy is very helpful to patients with either or both of these disorders. Chatting with a therapist can provide many useful coping tools to help manage the challenges of each disorder. CBT is helpful for both ADHD and depression.
  • Holistic. Learning some self-care practices is also helpful in managing symptoms. Certain holistic methods can help reduce stress, such as yoga and meditation.

How to Manage ADHD and Depression in Daily Life

There are many actions a person can take to improve the quality of daily life if they struggle with these disorders. In general, by better managing ADHD will have overflow benefits for helping the depression. Consider these actions:

  1. Get organized. There are many helpful organizing tools available, both high-tech and manual. Smartphone apps that help you get better organized are often free of charge. These can help improve your job performance by helping you keep track of tasks and meetings. Daily planners are helpful as a physical tool to help you keep track of all your tasks on paper.
  2. Eat healthily. To maximize brain health you need to eat a healthy diet. Focus on omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole-grain bread, pasta, rice, and veggies. Adults with ADHD should avoid sugary treats, corn syrup, and starches. People with depression should avoid alcohol.
  3. Manage stress. Adults with ADHD have a great deal of stress with the disorder. Learning how to manage anxiety and stress is an essential coping skill. Try using apps to help you practice mindfulness, deep breathing, and guided meditation.
  4. Get exercise. Exercise is helpful for both depression and ADHD. When you engage in daily exercise, your body can release endorphins. These are often called the “feel good” brain chemicals. Exercise also helps to reduce stress and improve your sleep quality.
  5. Avoid triggers. There are known triggers for ADHD that you can avoid to help improve your daily life. Some triggers are lack of sleep, a poor diet, too much caffeine, not managing stress, or not getting exercise.

Knowing that ADHD and depression can co-occur is the first step to becoming informed. Treatment helps manage both ADHD and depression, so reach out for help today.

Mental Health Hope Offers Online Guidance for Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Hope is a free on line resource that helps people with mental health challenges, like ADHD and depression. If you or someone you love is struggling with these comorbid disorders, give our team at call today at (877) 967-9274.

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