Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition which can cause mild to severe emotional dysregulation among children and adults without proper treatment. Common symptoms of ADHD include: impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, and issues regarding mental focus and self-control regulation. Over time, these symptoms can lead to stress–which can ultimately result in depression if left untreated. 


The symptoms associated with ADHD often lead to a snowball effect that can quickly wreak havoc on a person’s work life or personal relationships. ADHD makes it tough to start and complete tasks, focus on important details, and control impulsive tendencies. With time, this can lead to low-self esteem, because it’s difficult to feel happy and accomplished when you keep falling into a cycle of ineffective behaviors. 


Can ADHD cause depression?


Some symptoms of depression tend to coincide with the symptoms of ADHD making it challenging at times to assess which diagnosis fits your circumstances best. For example, both ADHD and depression can involve trouble concentrating, making decisions, and remembering details. Both can also lead to a decrease in motivation in certain circumstances.


Additionally, sometimes medications prescribed to treat ADHD can produce adverse side effects common for depression such as: 

  • Restlessness
  • Frequent changes in mood
  • Fatigue

A person with ADHD may have trouble focusing, listening, or getting organized, which might make it difficult for them to live efficiently or effectively when it comes to school and work environments. If there is enough disruption in their school or work life, they may struggle with feeling inadequate or at a loss for purpose, which can be a key factor in people experiencing or intensifying depression.


Another risk is procrastination, where a person with ADHD may have trouble starting or finishing projects, again, leading to criticism from peers, a drop in performance, and the same struggle against any undiagnosed depressive tendencies that may be present.


The fact of the matter is that depression and ADHD may exist separately in a person, or ADHD may inflame or cause certain kinds of depression. The risk for comorbidity (meaning multiple conditions coexisting, manifesting as one primary condition and any subsequent conditions), is incredibly high for people whose mental health concerns have a particularly disruptive effect on their ability to function at what people may consider a “normal” level. While mental health issues are common, the stigma and urge to fit the social mold can complicate things. Either the pressures faced because of something like ADHD, such as poor performance at work or school, can lead to difficulties in social experience, or it can lead people to avoid seeking help. The latter is of course particularly dangerous and concerning, as it prevents and prohibits any potential growth or mental wellness management, both of which are key for helping people with ADHD, depression, or any other concern function at their best.


ADHD and depression in children


If you are unsure as to whether or not your child has either ADHD, depression, or both, you’re not alone. Since ADHD can pose many challenges for children in school, many develop depression consequently, often as a result of their inability to voice or manage their own mental wellness and the same issues that we discussed earlier. Children in particular are incredibly sensitive to their social environment, so their mental health issues may have a long reaching impact if they go unaddressed. Research shows that children with ADHD are roughly four times more likely than their peers to become depressed.


It is important to note that because symptoms of ADHD and depression overlap significantly, misdiagnosis is common. If you notice an increase of these behaviors associated with both ADHD and depression, be sure to contact a family doctor or a specialist that can help you identify the risks and potential mental health risks. At the ADHD Wellness Center, we work with all types of patients doing exactly this, so we understand how critical early identification and management can be.


ADHD and depression in adults


Recent studies show that about one-third to one-half of patients with ADHD will have persistent symptoms into adulthood. With this in mind, it is important to recognize signs of depression, and seek treatment to help manage the adverse effects so you can live your life to the fullest potential. Signs of depression in adults with ADHD include:


  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Impulsive behaviors such as excessive spending or other reckless behavior
  • A major change in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • A loss of interest in favored activities
  • Physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches
  • Racing thoughts or persistent rumination
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


How you can help


Knowing whether you have ADHD, depression, or both can be difficult to say the least. If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from ADHD or depression, be sure to reach out and speak to a mental health professional. You can also feel free to schedule an initial 45 minute appointment with our ADHD medical professional here at the ADHD Wellness Center. During the initial appointment, your specialist will answer any of your questions or concerns to help you receive the best proper treatment possible.