Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurobehavioral disorder that is characterized by hyperactivity and inattentiveness. ADHD is typically diagnosed at school age, but approximately half of the children diagnosed with ADHD continue having ADHD symptoms as adults. Depression and ADHD are both frequently diagnosed, and depression is surprisingly common among ADHD patients. Approximately 18 percent of adults who have ADHD also suffer from major depression, says Janssen-Ortho.com.
Causes of ADHD and Depression
Both ADHD and depression have a strong genetic component. These disorders have also been linked to abnormalities in brain chemistry, and a neurotransmitter named dopamine is connected to both of them. Environmental risk factors such as exposure to nicotine, alcohol or lead during pregnancy have been linked to ADHD. Besides hereditary component, environmental factors, such as stressful life events, are also needed for depression to be triggered in an individual.
ADHD and Depression Symptoms
There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive, predominantly inattentive or a combination of both. A person suffering from depression feels sad and has lost interest in activities that used to interest him. Sleep problems and changes in appetite are also frequently reported. If a person suffers from both of these conditions, his symptoms might be a bit different, however. Dr. Rasim Somer Diler states in a study published in "Journal of Affective Disorders" in September 2007 that people suffering from both ADHD and depression are often anxious. They also have difficulties behaving in social settings. Substance abuse is common among patients suffering from both of these conditions.
Diagnosing ADHD and Depression
Since both ADHD and depression are mental disorders, they are diagnosed by the guidelines presented in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," or DSM-IV. The depression symptoms must have lasted for more than two weeks for a doctor to diagnose clinical depression. The ADHD symptoms must have appeared before the age of 7 and have lasted at least six months. The ADHD symptoms must also cause problems in at least two settings, such as work and home.
Relationship Between ADHD and Depression
The reasons why depression is so common among adult ADHD patients are not clearly understood. Yet, it seems safe to assume that many ADHD patients have begun to suffer from depression due to their ADHD symptoms. Adults with ADHD frequently report difficulties at work and in social settings. They experience such traumatic life as divorce and being fired from a job more frequently than healthy adults, say Drs. Richard H. Weisler and David W. Goodman in a study that was published in Vol. 15 of the “Primary Psychiatry” journal in 2008. These negative events might trigger depression in some ADHD patients. Yet, some ADHD patients also suffer from primary depression that is not strongly related to their life circumstances. These people typically have a strong genetic component for depression or other mental disorders.
Treatment for a Person with Co-Existing ADHD and Depression
When treating coexisting conditions such as ADHD and depression, a doctor must determine which one of these conditions is interfering with the patient’s life and begin to treat that condition first. Medication can be used in treating both of these conditions. Psychotherapy and behavioral modification have been used effectively in treating these conditions.
- Stanford School of Medicine: Major Depression and Genetics
- “Journal of Affected Disorders Journal"; Differentiating Major Depressive Disorder in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Diler, Daviss, Lopez; vol. 1-3,; 2007
- ”American Psychiatric Association”; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th Ed; 1994.
- "Primary Psychiatry" Journal; Assessment and Diagnosis of Adult ADHD