The Relationship Between Depression and ADHD Homepage

Studies have shown that children with ADHD are at higher risk of depression and other mood disorders.

Several well-conducted studies have shown that rates of depression are significantly higher in children with ADHD than in other children. This is concerning because children with ADHD and depression, in addition to experiencing greater distress in the present are likely to have greater difficulty over the course of their development.

The connection between ADHD and depression. Studies have shown that children with ADHD are at higher risk of depression and other mood disorders.One prominent theory is that the relationship between ADHD and depression may result from the social/interpersonal difficulties that many children with ADHD experience. These difficulties can lead important others in the child's life to develop negative appraisals of the child's social competence that are communicated to the child during the course of ongoing negative social exchanges. With increasing age, these negative social experiences and others' negative appraisals can adversely affect children's view of their social competence, which, in turn, can predispose them to develop depressive symptoms. An interesting study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology was designed to test this theory (Ostrander, Crystal, & August [2006]. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, and Self- and Other Assessments of Social Competence: A Developmental Study. JACP, 34, 773-787.

Additionally, in children with ADHD, the existence of a comorbid condition, such as depression, is correlated with greater likelihood that the symptoms will persist into adulthood. As the child moves from adolescence to adulthood, the predominant symptoms of ADHD tend to shift from external, visible ones to the internal symptoms.

Mood disorders: Mood Disorders include Major Depression, Dysthymia (Chronic low-level depression) and Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder.) These are present in many individuals with ADHD. Usually, depression starts later than the first onset of the ADHD. There has been some debate about the incidence of Bipolar Disorder in individuals with ADHD. Some might say that rapid mood shifts and frequent irritability are characteristics of ADHD. Others diagnose a rapid-cycling mood disorder. Recurrent major depression is more common in adults with ADHD than in non-ADHD adults. However, one must also be aware that depression can be a side effect of stimulants and several other medications. Because stimulants have been known to exacerbate depression and mania, one should usually treat the mood disorder before treating the ADHD.

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APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2007, June 8). The Relationship Between Depression and ADHD Homepage, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Last Updated: February 14, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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