The relationship between ADHD and depression

ADHD and depression are different diseases, but often there is a lot of overlap.

If you are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression, you may want to know what this means for your prognosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes. You can improve your condition through changes.

What is ADHD?

Before we begin to unravel the complex relationship between ADHD and depression, it is important to understand what each diagnosis involves individually.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that it has existed since childhood and persisted throughout your life. People diagnosed with ADHD may exhibit so-called executive dysfunction: they have difficulty completing tasks, they can easily become disorganized, miss appointments, and lose things.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and can be divided into three different manifestations.


People with ADHD with inattention have difficulty focusing on tasks they find boring, having difficulty organizing their thoughts and keeping up with conversations, and being easily distracted by what is happening around them or their own internal conversations.


People with hyperactive-impulsive hyperactivity have a constant feeling of restlessness, may speak spontaneously without thinking, and have difficulty staying still (such as sitting in a classroom in class).

A combination of inattention and hyperactivity

People with combined performance will have symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.

What is depression?

Depression is more than sadness or depression. Many people experience recurrent episodes, lasting from a few weeks to several months or longer.

The following are the most common symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or empty
  • Irritability, frustration, or restlessness
  • Lose interest in what I used to like to do
  • Inattention
  • Eat too little or too much
  • Difficulty falling asleep or waking up all night
  • Feeling overly tired or tired

Depression can make it difficult for you to complete daily tasks, such as going to work or school, paying attention to personal hygiene and eating healthy. When it is severe and causes suicidal ideation, it is also a life-threatening disease.

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The overlap of ADHD and depression

How do ADHD and depression overlap? We know that these are comorbidities, which means that when you are diagnosed with one disease, you are more likely to be diagnosed with another disease.

Here are some facts about the overlap between ADHD and depression:

  • Teens with ADHD are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than their peers without ADHD
  • Compared with adults without ADHD, the prevalence of depression in adults with ADHD is three times higher.
  • The ADHD diagnosis rate for people diagnosed with depression tends to be about 30% to 40%.
  • 70% of people diagnosed with ADHD may also experience depression in their lifetime.

In addition, a study examining data from the Dutch study of depression and anxiety found that people with major depression, chronic depression, early-onset depression, or comorbid anxiety have a higher incidence of ADHD. This shows that there is a close relationship between ADHD and depression.

Regarding suicidal ideation, a study of 627 undergraduates showed that the diagnosis of ADHD is related to increased suicidal ideation. This relationship is influenced by various factors, such as the management of negative emotions, emotional awareness, and goal-oriented behavior.

Is it ADHD or depression?

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between ADHD and depression. This is because of overlapping symptoms, but also because some ADHD drugs can cause side effects that mimic depression, such as loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping.

Although ADHD and depression both involve problems related to mood, attention, and motivation, they do differ.


People with ADHD may experience temporary emotional instability throughout childhood, while people with depression tend to experience emotional episodes, beginning in their teens or later, and lasting for at least several weeks or months.


People with ADHD will be motivated when they feel interesting things, while people with depression will find everything difficult, whether it is fun or exciting for them, when they are not depressed.

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People with ADHD have difficulty falling asleep due to their active minds and not feeling tired, while those with depression may feel tired but unable to fall asleep due to negative thoughts and insomnia, may wake up all night, or may sleep for too long.


The symptoms of ADHD are lifelong, while the symptoms of major depression tend to last for a period of time, and then usually improve to a normal level of function.

Risk factors for comorbid ADHD and depression

What are the risk factors for ADHD and depression? The following are some of the identified risk factors.

  • As women: Although ADHD is more common in men, women are more likely to suffer from both ADHD and depression.
  • Inattention type: People diagnosed with inattention type are more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
  • Mother’s mental health: When a mother suffers from depression during pregnancy, it is more likely to have a child who is later diagnosed with ADHD, depression, or both.
  • Early-onset: Being diagnosed with ADHD in childhood is associated with an increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts in the future.
  • Not receiving treatment: People who are not treated for ADHD have a higher risk of depression due to secondary issues such as low self-esteem.

Overlapping ADHD and depression treatment

If you have overlapping ADHD and depression, what type of treatment will you provide? It really depends on your specific situation.

Generally speaking, this method works under the most unfavourable conditions first. Although treatment can solve both problems at the same time, it is usually prescribed for one condition first, and then for the other.


What medicine might you be prescribed? Here is a list of some of the options you might get:


Stimulants such as Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) can be used to treat ADHD. Stimulants help increase brain chemicals, thereby improving concentration. However, they may have side effects such as loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping.

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Non-stimulants such as Strattera (tomoxetine) can also be used to treat ADHD.


Antidepressants can be used to treat depression, including Wellbutrin (bupropion), which can also help relieve the symptoms of ADHD. It may take several weeks for antidepressants to know if they are effective.


Psychotherapy for ADHD is aimed at improving concentration and building self-esteem, while treatment for depression may be aimed at identifying and replacing negative thoughts and behaviors (which may also be helpful for ADHD).

In a study of 77 adults with ADHD, those who had received extensive psychotherapy and were less likely to have ruminant thoughts proved to be more resistant to the onset of depression.

Lifestyle changes

What can you do to improve ADHD and depression? The basics are the most important: eating healthy meals, exercising regularly (aerobic exercise is important if you have ADHD), and maintaining good sleep hygiene.

If you have ADHD, another good strategy is to prevent yourself from getting bored, as this can worsen your mood.

One way to achieve this goal is to place a “hobby cabinet” or other place in your home to store activities you can do when you are bored. Add things like the books you want to read, the handicrafts you want to make, and so on, so you never have time to be overwhelmed.

Get advice from the VigorTip Mind podcast

Hosted by the editor and therapist Amy Morin, this episode of LCSW’s “VigorTip Mind Podcast” shares how to find the courage to face depression, including Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez ( Laurie Hernandez).

Follow now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / RSS

Very good sentence

ADHD and depression often overlap, so if you think you may have symptoms of any kind of mental health problem, be sure to consult your doctor. Both need to be dealt with quickly to avoid secondary problems later; however, when you get help that suits your personal circumstances, the prognosis is good.