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Can ADHD Cause Depression?

Lido Wellness Center Blog

Can ADHD Cause Depression?

December 15, 2021

ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It can affect behaviors, emotions, and the way a person learns. But, can ADHD cause depression?

While a diagnosis of ADHD typically occurs in childhood, it is not a kid’s disorder. Many adults struggle with diagnosed ADHD, while others never receive a diagnosis. When ADHD is left untreated, it often results in ADHD and depression in adults. 

Whether you recently received a diagnosis of ADHD and depression or think you may be struggling with both disorders, it is important to seek counseling to understand your diagnosis and treatment options better.

What is ADHD?

Before we discuss how ADHD can cause depression, it is vital to understand the disorders individually. 

Neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD are present in childhood and throughout life. Many people with ADHD struggle to complete tasks and are often disorganized. As a result, they often lose things and miss appointments. 

ADHD may present itself in three different ways – inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and a combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulse. 

Inattentive ADHD

Inattentive ADHD causes people to struggle with staying focused on tasks they find boring. They are often distracted by their internal dialogue or things going on around them. People with inattentive ADHD may also struggle to follow conversations and organize their thoughts. Symptoms include:

  • Missing details or making careless mistakes
  • Trouble listening, paying attention, or staying focused
  • Needs reminders, repetitions, and extra help following directions
  • Forgetful or disorganized
  • Avoids difficult tasks

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

People struggling with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD constantly feel restless and find it challenging to sit still. They may also say things without thinking first. Symptoms include:

  • Fidgeting and squirming
  • Trouble staying seated
  • Noisy, running, climbing at inappropriate times
  • Talking out of turn and more than others
  • Interrupting others or blurts things out
  • Always on the go

Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulse Combination ADHD

It is not uncommon for a person with ADHD to have both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. While any form of ADHD is challenging, treatments such as counseling, behavioral therapies, and medications can help manage symptoms.

What is Depression?

People say they are depressed when they are sad or feeling blue. However, depression is more than just feeling down for a day or two. People with depression have recurrent episodes that last weeks, months, and even longer. Furthermore, depression is more than feeling sad. 

Symptoms of Depression

The most common symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability, frustration, or restlessness
  • Lack of interest in things you once liked doing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Change in eating habits
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue

People struggling with depression may find it hard to handle daily responsibilities such as work or school. They often struggle with personal hygiene and eating healthy meals. When depression goes untreated, it can be life-threatening and lead to suicidal ideations. 

Can ADHD Cause Depression?

Is there a link between ADHD and depression in adults? Research shows that both ADHD and depression are comorbid conditions. As a result, people diagnosed with one disorder are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with the other. 

According to the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, people with severe depression, early-onset depression, or chronic depression have higher rates of ADHD. Other facts that support the link between ADHD and depression in adults include:

  • Teens with ADHD are ten times more likely to struggle with depression than their peers.
  • Adults with ADHD are three times more likely to receive a diagnosis of depression than adults without ADHD.
  • People with depression are 30 to 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. 
  • Seventy percent of people with ADHD may experience depression in their lifetime. 

Because ADHD and depression can increase suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to seek help. If you or someone you love are in immediate danger, call 911.

How Does ADHD and Depression Overlap?

People may have difficulty telling ADHD and depression apart. Not only do the disorders have overlapping symptoms, some medications for ADHD cause side effects such as trouble sleeping and loss of appetite, which mimic depression. 

While concentration, mood, and motivation issues are symptoms of ADHD and depression in adults, they are different disorders.


The mood of a person with ADHD can change quickly and spontaneously. ADHD begins in childhood and continues throughout life. While a person with depression experiences mood episodes that last weeks or months. Depression is typically seen in teens and adults.


When an activity is enjoyable to someone with ADHD, there is motivation to participate. However, a person struggling with depression will struggle with motivation even when the activity is fun and exciting. 


An active mind and the lack of feeling tired are symptoms of ADHD. These symptoms make it difficult to sleep. A person with depression feels tired, but negative thoughts and worries make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult.

How Long Does ADHD and Depression in Adults Last?

ADHD is a lifelong disorder typically diagnosed in childhood. As research continues, professionals can recognize the signs and diagnose ADHD at younger ages. 

Depression is typically diagnosed in teens and adults. Symptoms may last days, weeks, or months before a person feels normal again. Staying involved in various therapies can minimize or eliminate episodes. 

How Can ADHD Cause Depression?

Multiple factors increase the risk of co-occurring ADHD and depression in adults. If you or someone you love has ADHD, it is important to be aware of these risk factors. Depression can be life-threatening and needs immediate attention.


According to the National Institutes of Health, males are more likely to have ADHD. But, University of Chicago researchers find females are at higher risk of developing depression. 


The same study finds that the type of ADHD also affects the risk of developing depression. People struggling with inattentive ADHD or combination inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have a higher risk of co-occurring depression. 

Mother’s Mental Health History

A person’s risk of developing depression is affected by their mother’s mental health. A JAMA Psychiatry article finds pregnant women struggling with low serotonin levels, or depression often has children who struggle with ADHD, depression or both. However, research is continuing on serotonin levels and a developing fetus.

Undiagnosed or Untreated ADHD

If a person with ADHD goes undiagnosed or doesn’t treat diagnosed ADHD, their risk of depression increases. Secondary issues such as low self-esteem also increase depression in people with ADHD.

Can ADHD Cause Depression and Suicidal Thoughts?

Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds children diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 6 have a higher risk of developing depression and having suicidal thoughts. It also finds girls between 6 and 18 with ADHD have more suicidal thoughts than peers without ADHD. 

Furthermore, people with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have a higher risk of being suicidal. Overall, the risk of suicidal thoughts in people with ADHD is low. However, if you know someone has, suicidal thoughts it is crucial to call 911 and never leave them alone. 

What Treatments are Available for ADHD and Depression in Adults?

There are various treatments for ADHD and co-occurring depression. Generally, treatment focuses on the disorder that is most impairing first. However, treatments vary depending on the person and their diagnosis. 

Medications For ADHD and Depression

There are three types of medications used to manage ADHD and depression in adults. Let’s take a look at what they are and how they work. 


ADHD is often treated with stimulants such as Adderall. Stimulants increase brain chemicals to improve focus. However, stimulants may interfere with appetite and sleep. 


Strattera or atomoxetine is also a non-stimulant medication often used in treating ADHD. 


Depression is often treated with antidepressants such as Wellbutrin (bupropion). Antidepressants can also help manage ADHD symptoms. However, it typically takes a few weeks to notice a difference. 

Can Therapy Help When ADHD Causes Depression?

Psychotherapy or individual therapy can help manage ADHD and depression in adults and teens. It helps improve focus and build self-esteem in people struggling with ADHD. While also addressing the negative thoughts and behaviors of depression. 

Types of therapies used in treating ADHD and depression in adults include:

What Lifestyle Changes Can Help When ADHD Causes Depression?

Are there changes you can make to improve your ADHD and depression? Yes, there are three easy ways to improve your symptoms, and they are also necessities of life – eating healthy meals, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene. 

Keeping yourself from being bored is also essential when you have ADHD, as it can worsen your mood. Additionally, when you struggle with depression, boredom can increase negative thoughts. Learning time management skills can keep you focused and prevent boredom. 

Treating ADHD and Depression in Adults at Lido Wellness Center

Living with ADHD and depression is challenging, but both disorders are manageable with a successful mental health approach. At Lido Wellness Center, we combine medication, behavioral therapies, and lifestyle changes to help you live your best life.

Can ADHD cause depression? How can Lido Wellness Center help you? Our caring representatives are waiting to answer these questions and more. Contact us today and regain control of your life.


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