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ADHD and Depression - Part One

Published: 18 Sep 2019

Dr-Jennie-Byrne-1ADHD and depression are commonly associated with one another. But why is that? We asked experienced psychiatrist Dr. Jennie Byrne MD, PhD from Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill in North Carolina to help us answer common ADHD and depression related questions.

Disclaimer: the information contained on this website does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about your own health or the health of someone else, you should speak to your doctor.

 

 

Q. What is the link between ADHD and depression?

A: There is no clear research to say that ADHD and depression are linked. They go together all the time or some of the time. In real-world experience, the link between ADHD and depression can go two ways. Either they are comorbid problems, meaning that somebody just happens to have both of those problems. In my experience this occurs at the same rate as those without ADHD. The other type at risk of depression are those who have untreated or under-treated ADHD, especially if they are just coming to diagnosis as an adult. They have a much higher likelihood of depression related to having undiagnosed and untreated ADHD.

Q. Are people with ADHD more likely to get depression?

A: Again, I think this depends on whether ADHD was successfully treated in early childhood or not. What I see is that if somebody was diagnosed and treated as a child, and they had a good course of treatment, they are far less likely to be depressed – no more so than the non-ADHD population. A ‘good course of treatment’ means they took medicine, or they and their families made environmental changes, or they did both, as well as being supported at school.

What I do see are people who either are undiagnosed, under-treated or poorly treated. They tend to have depression in some form: it may not be major depressive disorder but it may be a chronic low level depression. Because the ADHD is not well treated, they often feel like something is wrong. That will show up in two ways.

Either their behavior is externalized; where they are very negative about the world and saying things like ‘the world is a bad place' or 'other people are not good people’. Or it turns inward. Which is probably what I see more commonly, where the person believes something is wrong with them. That persistent negative belief of ‘something is wrong with me’ or ‘something is wrong with the world’ – that is what can lead to depression.