Depression

Depression and ADHD can to go hand in hand. They tend to entangle with each other in such a way that it begins to blur the line of where one diagnosis ends and the other begins. Up to 30% of children diagnosed with ADHD will also be diagnosed with depression.


The clinical definition of "major depression" is a deep sense of sadness and despair lasting for more than 2 weeks. Another type of depression that is a common comorbidity with ADHD is "Persistant Depressive Disorder" also called Dysthymia. This disorder is diagnosed when depression symptoms last for 2 years or more.


(symptoms also found in ADHD are noted in parentheses)


  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism (Common in ADHD)

  • Feelings of irritability, frustration‚ or restlessness (Common in ADHD)

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness (Common in ADHD)

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities (Sometimes caused by internalized hyperactivity in ADHD)

  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”(Sometimes occurs after periods of hyperfocus with ADHD)

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions (Common in ADHD)

  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping (Common in ADHD)

  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and that do not ease even with treatment

  • Suicide attempts or thoughts of death or suicide


If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Personal Experience

One thing that can make depression especially difficult to overcome when you have ADHD is Time Blindness. Because Time Blindness can also make events that happened far in the past seem like just yesterday, it can cause those of us with ADHD to constantly remember feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and regret as if they are fresh in our memory.


This, combined with the multiple overlapping symptoms of ADHD oftentimes make it much easier to diagnose depression before ADHD. This is actually what happened with me. I began seeing a doctor for feelings of depression back in 2010. I was initially treated with anti-depressants. When the anti-depressants only seemed to make things worse I began researching my symptoms and came across information much like you are seeing here which led me to inquire about ADHD. At that time the doctor asked me a few questions and (without telling me) diagnosed me with ADHD, but only kept it in his private notes. He continued treating me with different anti-depressants for another 4 years after that.


The unfortunate aspect of that is that it is like using burn ointment to treat a massive burn on your hand while your hand is still on top of a hot burner. Most of the time our ADHD and the guilt and shame that comes with it cause our depression. It isn't until we are able to be treated for the ADHD (and see marked improvement) that we can truly begin to heal from depression.

I eventually got frustrated enough with my treatment that I went to a licensed Psychiatrist and inquired about ADHD. At which time, he looked at my chart and saw the doctor's internal notes and said "well yeah, you were diagnosed with ADHD 4 years ago." He then ran his own series of questions and determined that I had severe ADHD and I was finally able to begin treatment.

Sources

  1. Smith M. The Link Between Depression and ADHD. WebMD. Published August 25, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/depression-adhd-link

  2. Depression. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Published 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression