Last updated:

March 10, 2023


 min read

Is there a link between ADHD and depression?

Several people get diagnosed with both ADHD and depression. Does one condition precede the other? What is the connection between them? Read this to find out!

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Written by
Ipsa Khurana

What is comorbidity? 

Comorbidity, also referred to as multi-morbidity or multiple chronic conditions, is a medical term used to describe a condition where more than one disorder exists at the same time. The disorder can be multiple mental (such as depression and anxiety) or physical conditions (such as heart conditions and diabetes), or a combination of the two (depression and diabetes). These disorders are usually long-term and impact one another. Therefore, the coexisting conditions should be studied and treated both individually and together.

Comorbidity is different from a ‘complication’ or ‘side effect’, which are caused during the treatment of a disease. However, a comorbid condition is an additional disorder that you might have along with a primary health concern. 

Are ADHD and depression comorbid conditions?

Depression is nearly three times more prevalent among adults with ADHD. More than half of people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) experience depression. Additionally, 30 to 40 percent of individuals diagnosed with depression also have ADHD. This data indicates a strong comorbidity between ADHD and depression, which has been proven by several scientific studies.

Hence, this can lead to an incomplete diagnosis and misdiagnosis, making it essential that the differences in symptoms, the overlaps, and the relationship between the two disorders is comprehensively understood. These misdiagnoses can lead to a wrong prescription of antidepressants with little to no progress in treatment, as major mood swings caused by ADHD can sometimes be confused with depression. Not receiving proper treatment can also cause hopelessness, which is more often related to depression. 

So, if you have been diagnosed with both depression and ADHD, remember that these are two different conditions with different treatment courses that the therapist or psychiatrist should adopt. In case they don't, point it out to them (or look for a different doctor)!

Can ADHD cause depression?

Having ADHD can put you at risk of depression. The risk is even greater for people with hyperactive/impulsive types of ADHD, who are also at a higher risk of suicide. Chronic frustration and disappointment among ADHD patients can manifest as depression. This condition is called secondary depression. It can result from the added troubles people face with school, work, relationships, and a distorted sense of self. This makes it even more important for ADHD to be treated and managed well, so that symptoms of secondary depression can be avoided and/or managed appropriately.

Difference between ADHD and depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterised by constant low mood. It has gradual onset for weeks or months and has to be constant for at least two weeks for a diagnosis. On the other hand, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Its symptoms can include extreme mood fluctuations, including low moods, but ADHD symptoms are not restricted to mood changes. These mood swings are short-lived and triggered by specific things or events (unlike depression) and are accompanied by other symptoms concerning poor time management, hyperactivity, and difficulty focusing. 

What is similar between ADHD and depression is they are both mental health conditions that need professional support, which includes therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Treating ADHD and Depression

Comorbidity can make a treatment plan more complicated since all disorders - along with their symptoms - must be addressed separately and together. However, some symptoms can also overlap. These conditions can have different triggers and might make you more prone to other conditions. If medication is prescribed, that would be different as well based on the nature of the disorder. 

While managing comorbid conditions, your medical history becomes significant. Since having ADHD puts you at a higher risk of depression, the condition must be treated with proper professional support. Secondary depression caused by ADHD doesn't take away the fact that the individual is suffering from depressive symptoms requiring medical intervention. 

Even though the course of treatment differs for both conditions, therapy and medication have shown excellent results! A combination of the two might also be used, with different medication for both, guided by a professional. Living with one condition is hard enough; comorbidity can make it more challenging. That is why you should seek help today! Get started by clicking below.