Depression often goes hand in hand with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

They are recognized in the medical profession as coexisting or ‘comorbid’ conditions, which means that people can – and often – have them simultaneously. Various factors increase the chances of these conditions co-occurring, particularly when an early diagnosis hasn’t happened. With diagnosis and support, people who suffer from depression and ADHD can enjoy good outcomes and happier life.

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What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a brain disorder that can make it challenging to focus. It can present in different ways, particularly between the sexes and between adults and children. Children and adults with ADHD may find it difficult to sit still, finish tasks, focus, and keep track of daily tasks and activities, such as learning schedules, appointments, possessions, and information.

What is depression?

Depression is a feeling of deep despair, sadness, and hopelessness. It’s characterized as depression if you feel it daily for at least a fortnight in any one go. This makes it different from ‘the blues’, which occurs in most people often because of external factors. Depression can be chronic, occur without any obvious external stimulus and make it difficult for people to carry out their daily lives. It makes it hard to go to school, exercise, work, or sleep.

The link between ADHD and depression in children

Amongst children with ADHD, around a third will suffer mood disorders such as depression. Some medical experts believe that over half of the people with ADHD will be seen and treated for depression in their lives at some point.

How are depression and ADHD connected?

One of the main issues with the two conditions is their very similar symptoms. This makes it hard to diagnose and then treat each condition appropriately correctly. For example, when someone is struggling to focus on their daily tasks and objectives, this could indicate depression or ADHD. Equally, if someone feels disconnected or unable to enjoy their daily lives, this can be a symptom of both conditions. In children, common symptoms of ADHD and depression are irritability and hyperactivity.

How ADHD can be a precursor to depression

ADHD can often come before depression, where people struggle with their symptoms. For example, children may find it difficult to make friendships or to succeed at school, and adults may find it difficult to carry out their tasks at work. This can create feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, and other depressive symptoms.

The implications of incorrect assessment

If medical professionals incorrectly assess ADHD or depression, they may prescribe the wrong medicines and create other unwanted side effects.

What causes ADHD and depression?

The medical profession doesn’t know exactly what causes ADHD and depression, but certain factors may be present such as:

  • A family history of the conditions; people with ADHD and depression often have other family members
  • Environmental factors are unclear but are being researched. These could include certain prescription drugs in pregnancy and maternal health

How are the conditions treated?

Both conditions are usually treated in the same way. This will be through a combination of therapy and medication. Sometimes, just one form of treatment will be given. Children may be given different forms of medication than adults.

The treatment will usually be prioritized according to the most prevalent condition. If ADHD leads to stress, for example, it may be worth focusing on stress removal first to help remove one of the primary causes of depression.

ADHD treatments and stimulants

ADHD, in particular, is often treated with chemical stimulants that help to stimulate and balance brain chemicals that boost concentration, thought processes, and thinking. These can improve symptoms of ADHD at work or school. However, they often have side effects, too, such as sleep problems or a reduction in appetite.

Other ADHD drugs will not include stimulants and remove these unwanted side effects. But they often take longer to work. Doctors sometimes prescribe a mix of non-stimulant and stimulant drugs to obtain quick and sustainable long-term results as the stimulant prescription is tapered off.

Depression and treatments

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed as a treatment for depression. Many different types of medication are available, and doctors may try different ones to see which has the best results with the fewest side effects. All antidepressants can take several weeks to show effects. Sometimes the side effects can be serious and include suicidal thoughts. Teenagers, particularly young adults, must be monitored carefully when they take them.

Depresison and children

Children may also be prescribed anti-depressants, although doctors may first try to prioritize counseling, therapy, and other psychotherapeutic interventions. Therapists can help children and adults develop strategies to overcome everyday difficulties, such as issues at school, work, or within relationships. Children may also be offered direct support at school, often in support of specially trained support workers who have experience and knowledge of ADHD and depression and can implement strategies and targeted assistance for those children based on their individual needs.

Holistic approaches to depression and ADHD management

Other holistic approaches, such as exercise within groups, art therapy, and even pet therapy, may also be used. These areas are being explored as useful supporting routes to managing the symptoms of ADHD and depression. For example, group exercise can create structure and social bonds while encouraging endorphins through physical exercise. Physical exercise helps to improve appetite, sleep, and a sense of purpose. Together these results can help to bring improvements.

Ongoing research

Ongoing research is also being carried out into depression and ADHD and the role that diet and nutrition can play in supporting better outcomes for people with these conditions. Research is also taking place into environmental toxins and chemicals, which may increase risk factors of these conditions in infancy or even in utero if mothers have chemical exposures when they are pregnant. Over time, the medical and research professions hope to understand better these complex and linked conditions to treat them better.


ADHD and depression are often linked conditions that can occur in children and adults. They can cause sufferers to have difficulties in their everyday lives, with challenges at work, school, daily activities, friendships, and relationships. Different approaches exist to managing and helping the conditions. Further research is being done into holistic treatment programs that integrate different support elements, such as medication, therapy, and alternative therapies.