Understanding ADHD and Depression

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. On the other hand, depression is a mood disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves. While these two conditions may seem entirely different, they often go hand in hand. In this article, we explore the link between ADHD and depression, their symptoms, and available treatments.

The Link between ADHD and Depression

ADHD and depression are often co-occurring disorders. According to research, about 30-50% of people with ADHD may also experience depression at some point in their life. Similarly, approximately 20-30% of people with depression may also have ADHD.

The link between ADHD and depression is not fully understood, but studies suggest that the two disorders may have a common underlying genetic or neurological basis. For instance, both conditions are associated with imbalances of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which are responsible for regulating mood and attention.

Another theory suggests that individuals with ADHD may develop depression as a result of repeated failures, rejection, and criticism due to their impaired ability to focus, complete tasks, and organize their lives. Furthermore, people with ADHD may also have difficulty regulating their emotions, which can lead to mood swings and irritability that may trigger depression.

Symptoms of ADHD and Depression

The symptoms of ADHD and depression can overlap or mimic each other, making it difficult to diagnose them accurately. Below are some of the common symptoms of each condition:

ADHD Symptoms

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty organizing tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Restlessness
  • Talkativeness

Depression Symptoms

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Treatments of ADHD and Depression

ADHD and depression can have a significant impact on daily life, making it challenging to work, study, and maintain relationships. Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help alleviate the symptoms of these conditions.

Treatments for ADHD

The most common treatments for ADHD include:

  • Medication: Stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines can improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Behavioral therapy: Therapy techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavior modification can help individuals with ADHD learn new strategies to manage their symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes: Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of ADHD.

Treatments for Depression

The following treatments are commonly used to alleviate the symptoms of depression:

  • Medication: Antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and relieve depressive symptoms.
  • Talk therapy: Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy can help individuals explore and address the underlying causes of their depression.
  • Lifestyle changes: Engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and practicing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga can help alleviate depression symptoms.


ADHD and depression are two distinct conditions that can co-occur in an individual. While the exact link between these conditions is not clear, it’s essential to recognize that having ADHD can increase the risk of developing depression. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, both ADHD and depression can be managed, allowing individuals to live a fulfilling and successful life.


FAQs about ADHD and Depression

1. Can ADHD cause depression?

Yes, ADHD can lead to depression as individuals with ADHD may experience difficulties with self-esteem, social relationships, and academic or occupational achievement. In addition, the stress and frustration caused by ADHD symptoms can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and sadness, which can develop into depression.

2. Are ADHD and depression treated differently?

Yes, ADHD and depression are treated differently. While ADHD may be treated with medication and behavioral therapy, depression may require therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. It is important to assess each condition separately and tailor treatment accordingly.

3. Can treating ADHD improve depression?

Treating ADHD can improve depression in some cases as managing ADHD symptoms can lead to a reduction in stress and frustration. However, it is important to note that not all individuals with ADHD will experience depression and not all cases of depression in individuals with ADHD can be attributed to ADHD symptoms. Treatment for depression should always be comprehensive and address all possible contributing factors.


1. Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). ADHD and Depression. [Webpage]. Retrieved August 5, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml#part_153245

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