ADHD and depression: how the two are linked

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Update on national shortage of medication to manage ADHD symptoms.

Please be aware that there is a national shortage in the supply of medication that helps to manage ADHD symptoms. This is due to manufacturing issues and an increase in global demand for the medication.

This shortage means we cannot prescribe medication to new patients until stocks are available. If you are currently taking medication as part of your ADHD treatment plan, please contact your prescriber for further advice.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression can exist as co-occurring conditions.

Someone with ADHD is likely to experience difficulties with concentration, organisation and restlessness. When these symptoms aren’t managed effectively and disrupt daily life, this can leave a person feeling sad, hopeless, irritable and frustrated, all of which are symptoms of depression. These difficulties can also contribute to the person dealing with low self-esteem.

If you or someone you know seems to be experiencing ADHD and depression, take the time to fully understand the common signs and symptoms of these co-existing conditions. It's also important to get medical advice so that the most effective treatment can be provided.

Signs of ADHD and depression

When someone has ADHD, they will typically display the following symptoms:

  • Difficulties with organisation
  • Difficulties with listening
  • Finding it hard to remember details
  • Problems starting and completing tasks
  • Problems with impulse control

These ADHD symptoms can be disruptive when they aren’t managed effectively, impacting on a person’s home life as well as their time at work or school.

If a person with ADHD then displays several of the following symptoms, this could suggest that they're also experiencing depression:

  • Feeling so sad and down that it affects how they function and take care of themselves
  • Feeling worthless and hopeless, and as though they can’t escape these feelings
  • Becoming tearful or crying more than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Becoming irritable or angry more than usual or over seemingly insignificant things
  • Feeling that they're unable to concentrate and start or finish tasks
  • Feeling ‘flat’ or as though they can't experience and express ranges in emotions
  • Becoming less interested in taking care of themselves and their surroundings
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts

While symptoms of ADHD are lifelong traits, symptoms of depression can fluctuate over time and last for days or months.

Diagnosing ADHD and depression

As there are symptoms of ADHD and depression that overlap, including restlessness and limited concentration, it's recommended that you speak to your doctor if you're experiencing symptoms of both conditions.

A doctor is likely to ask about the symptoms you're experiencing and the impact they're having on your everyday life. The doctor can then make a referral for a more in-depth assessment if necessary. Psychiatrists at Priory are highly experienced in assessing and diagnosing co-occurring conditions such as ADHD and depression. We'll be able to provide you with access to effective treatment so that you can better manage both conditions.

Treatment options for ADHD and depression at Priory

Treatment for ADHD and depression can include a combination of appropriate medication and talking therapies. Sometimes, optimising ADHD medication can help with depression, and at other times, adding antidepressants may be more beneficial.

Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be beneficial for people with ADHD and depression. They help people to overcome negative beliefs, manage their dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours more effectively, and improve their self-esteem and confidence.

Family therapy sessions, which are available at Priory, can also be a valuable form of treatment. They enable families to gain a better understanding of both the ADHD and depression that their loved one is experiencing, come together to manage the symptoms and explore new ways of communicating effectively.

The treatment programmes that we provide for ADHD and depression can be provided on an inpatient, outpatient and day care basis. During initial conversations with a Priory expert, they'll be able to recommend the best line of treatment so that you can receive the most effective help and support.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London

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