We talked to experienced psychiatrist Dr. Jennie Byrne for answers to common questions concerning ADHD and depression.
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.
What is the link between ADHD and depression?
There is no clear research to say that ADHD and depression are linked. They go together 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.
How do you typically treat adults with both ADHD and depression?
It depends on the severity of the depression. If I have somebody come in and they are very depressed, and I think they may have ADHD, then normally I'll treat the depression first – usually with medication or therapy. My aim is to get them to a place where their depression is much lower and then we can begin to treat ADHD.
What are the signs of depression? Do they differ in people with ADHD compared to people without?
In my opinion, depression is not really related to ADHD. Depression is its own condition and the symptoms are the same, no matter whether someone has ADHD or not.
Patients who are particularly hyperactive and/or impulsive, will often externalize their feelings. They tend to be angry and irritable, and think the world is a bad place. They think everybody is against them. In contrast, those who are more inattentive, commonly internalize their feelings. Those people are the daydreamer type person who are in their head a lot. When they express their feelings, they will usually think something is wrong with them rather than the outside world.