Can depression cause adhd

Depression and ADHD: How They’re Linked

Written by Matt Smith

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression can go hand-in-hand. Doctors sometimes call them comorbid or coexisting conditions, meaning you can have both at the same time.

ADHD is a brain disorder that makes it hard to focus. Children and adults who have it might have trouble finishing tasks, sitting still, or keeping track of things, appointments, or details.

Depression is more than just an occasional case of the blues. It’s deep sadness and despair you feel every day for at least 2 weeks at a time. It can make it hard to work, go to school, or sleep.

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.

How you start may depend on what condition is causing you more trouble. For example, if ADHD is causing stress, treating that first may make take away one of the causes of depression.

  • 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.

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SAMHSA’s National Helpline | SAMHSA

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

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    It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.

    After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
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    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

What is it: ADHD, depression or both: signs, similarities and differences

Depression affects a person's thinking and actions and causes feelings of sadness, loneliness, lack of interest in life. People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a high risk of developing depression due to stress, although it manifests itself in a different way.

Natalya Chebakova


Experts estimate that depression is almost three times more common in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than in the general population. Research also shows that about 30% of people with ADHD experience a depressive episode or mood disorder during their lifetime.

Contents of the article

What is ADHD

Attention deficit hyperreactivity disorder is a neuropsychiatric behavioral disorder that begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. It manifests itself with symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and poorly controlled impulsivity. What is depression?

The person feels uncharacteristically sad, anxious, and wracked with guilt. Low energy leads to excessive bedtime and increased sleep duration. People have little or no interest in friends or daily activities, they have no hobbies.

The disease affects the feelings, thinking and actions of a person and causes feelings of sadness, loneliness, lack of interest in life.

Women are more likely to suffer from depression and make up 70% of the total number of patients with this disorder. Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 have a 60% greater risk of depression than people over 50.

Can ADHD and depression coexist

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression are conditions that can and often occur at the same time. Moreover, people with ADHD and depression experience the symptoms of each condition more acutely than if they had only one psychiatric disorder. As a result, depression in these people is sometimes misdiagnosed and treated, which has a significant impact on the condition of patients.

ADHD and depression symptoms

Depression and ADHD share some common symptoms. Both of these conditions include difficulty concentrating and loss of motivation. A person with ADHD may lose motivation because they believe that their efforts will not be noticed. A depressed person cannot complete his work because he does not have a goal.

Signs of depression in adults with ADHD

  • Trouble concentrating;
  • Excessive attention to one activity;
  • Disorganization and forgetfulness;
  • Impulsivity;
  • Emotional difficulties, including inability to manage emotions such as anger or frustration;
  • Hyperactivity or restlessness;
  • About 50% of adults with ADHD have an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of depression in adults with ADHD

  • Marked change in appetite, sleep and wakefulness;
  • Loss of interest in activities;
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and guilt;
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide;
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or abdominal pain.

Can untreated ADHD cause depression?

The presence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increases the risk of depression by four times. The risk is even higher for people with the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD, who are also at higher risk of suicide.

The very nature of ADHD, especially if left untreated, can sometimes cause depression. This type of "secondary depression" occurs as a direct consequence of the chronic dissatisfaction and frustration that many people with ADHD experience.

All the difficulties that can be caused by the symptoms of ADHD, such as problems with school, relationships, work, daily activities, lead to the fact that people with this condition often feel bad about themselves.

If ADHD is properly controlled and treated, depression can be avoided. But by some estimates, 25% of adults with this disorder did not receive proper treatment. After suffering so many blows to their self-esteem, they are resigned to the idea that they are lazy and stupid or not good enough to succeed in society or at work.

What else can cause depression in ADHD


In the brain of people with ADHD, dopamine, the neurochemical responsible for motivation and mood, is deregulated. This makes them feel oppressed.

Emotional dysregulation

People with ADHD are more prone to emotional dysregulation—they can and often experience emotions more intensely than people without ADHD. People with ADHD may take longer to calm down from difficult emotions and find it harder to withdraw from and distract from them, which can contribute to depression.


ADHD rarely occurs alone. A significant number of people with ADHD have a comorbid or associated disorder, whether it be depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), binge eating disorder, substance abuse, or learning disability.

Of course, ADHD in combination with something else can increase the risk of depression. For example, a person with ADHD and OCD has to contend with a difficult combination of conditions—they may be constantly tormented and ruminated about all sorts of things, which can lead them to withdraw and feel helpless.

How ADHD and depression are treated

ADHD and depression are usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, has proven to be highly effective against depression. The first goal of CBT is to enable the patient to identify and reduce frequent, intense negative thoughts such as "this is too hard to do", "I'm not worthy of this".

Whether or not depression is the result of ADHD does not change the fact that the person experiences guilt and emotional pain. Although there are some factors that doctors take into account when treating both conditions. For example, how ADHD medications and antidepressants can interact with each other. However, depression is often treated as a separate disease. Because the problems caused by ADHD are real, and depression can be life-threatening.

Antidepressants are the main treatment for severe depression. Most antidepressants work well with ADHD stimulants. In most cases, symptoms improve significantly after the first dose of the antidepressant. About half of those who take antidepressants achieve complete relief from their depression.

Lifestyle adjustments can also make a huge difference. Aerobic activity greatly affects the mood level of people with ADHD, improving it.

Many people with ADHD find that their mood deteriorates when they have nothing to do, and emotional stress can lead to increased anxiety and depression. It is important to fill these voids in life with reading, swimming, walking, hobbies.

Healthy food, adequate sleep, and regular exercise can reduce symptoms.

Meditation also plays an important role in the treatment of depression. You need to sit down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. With each exhalation, repeat a one-syllable word - "world", "com", "house". This should be done for a minute or 10 to 20 seconds whenever it is difficult to switch from one activity to another.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency and intensity of depressive symptoms that interfere with a happy life.


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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What if some mental disorders are not disorders at all?

What if mental disorders such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder are not mental disorders at all? In a new paper, biological anthropologists are calling on the scientific community to rethink mental illness. After careful study, they provide information that allows you to think of depression or post-traumatic stress as a reaction to adversity, rather than a chemical imbalance. And ADHD may be a way of functioning that has evolved in a hereditary environment that doesn't fit the way we live today.

Adaptive response to adversity.

Mental disorders are usually treated with drugs within the medical model. So why do the anthropologists who wrote this study argue that these disorders may not be medical at all? They point to several key points. First, medicine has never been able to prove that anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are inherited conditions. Second, the authors of the study note that despite the widespread and growing use of antidepressants, levels of anxiety and depression are not improving. From 1990 to 2010 the global prevalence of depressive disorder and anxiety disorders was 4.4% and 4%. At the same time, data continues to show that antidepressants work no better than placebo. Thirdly, worldwide, the incidence of these disorders remains stable at 1 in 14 people. However, in conflict-affected countries, approximately one in five people suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other disorders.

Together, the authors suggest that anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder may be adaptive responses to adversity. Defense systems are devices that are reliably activated in threatening situations to minimize losses. It's not hard to see how this relates to anxiety - it helps us avoid danger. But how does this relate to depression? Scientists claim that the mental pain of depression helps us focus on adverse events in order to mitigate current adversity and avoid similar adversity in the future. If this does not inspire confidence in you, then consider that neuroscientists are increasingly relegating these three disorders to branches of the threat detection system. Anxiety can be caused by chronic activation of the fight or flight system. Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when an injury triggers a freeze response that helps animals switch off from pain before death, and depression can be a chronic activation of the same freeze response.

Labels matter.

Labels are what help define who we are and what we are capable of. Too often labels limit us. That's why it's important to rethink how we treat anxiety, depression, or ADHD. Does anyone have depression, a brain disease, or a suppressed adaptive response to adversity? Adversity is something we can overcome, while mental illness must be fought. Labels offer a variety of possibilities.

Let's talk a little about ADHD. A generation ago, boys with ADHD were called bad boys and punished or detained. We are now helping children with ADHD understand that they have learning differences. Instead of detention, we try to provide support in a variety of ways. When we do this, behavior problems often disappear. This re-labeling of learning difference is vital because it gives children with ADHD the opportunity to be good and succeed. However, ADHD is still an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In Finland, where a lot of physical activity is part of the school day, rates of ADHD are very low. Meanwhile, in Russia, children are asked to sit quietly for most of the day. Primary school students often only get 15-20 minutes of break per day. And as a result, ADHD rates have risen over the past 15 years.

The authors of the study state that ADHD is not a disorder. Rather, it is an evolutionary mismatch with the modern educational environment that we have created. If ADHD is not a disorder, but a mismatch with the person's environment, then it is not a medical problem. This is a question of education reform. And that's a compelling thought, given the evidence that physical activity improves children's concentration and cognition. However, we must take this study with a grain of salt. There is a large body of research showing other biological factors associated with ADHD. For example, there is evidence that preterm birth further increases levels of ADHD.

Social reform or treatment?

The authors of the study compared the treatment of anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder with antidepressants with the treatment of a broken bone without fixing the bone itself. They believe that these problems are more like socio-cultural phenomena, so the solution is not necessarily to correct dysfunction in the human brain, but to correct dysfunction in the social world. This is a fair criticism of how we treat mental illness. But the stated goal of the article is not to change treatment, but to explore new ways to get rid of these problems. Research on depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress should focus more on mitigating conflict and adversity and less on manipulating brain chemistry.

Based on this, do we need to change the way we view mental health? Yes and no. When it comes to what labels we use, the change is welcome. Mental health recovery depends in part on whether patients believe they will get better.

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