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Two of the most common disorders affecting children are depression and ADHD. In many cases, they may appear together (up to 30 percent of people with ADHD also have depression). However, each condition has symptoms not shared by the other. For example, feeling disorganized or having trouble sitting still are common ADHD symptoms. Depression is often characterized by persistent thoughts of sadness and emptiness.

An Overview of ADHD and Depression

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression are two of the most common psychiatric disorders that can appear in childhood and can continue into adulthood. While depression and ADHD are two separate conditions, it is not uncommon for them to occur together. In fact, recent research has shown that up to 30 percent of people with ADHD also have depression. In children with ADHD, the risk of developing depression is as much as three times greater than for children without ADHD.
The good news is that both ADHD and depression are highly treatable through a combination of medications and/or behavioral therapies (also known as "talk therapy").
(Click ADHD Treatment or Depression Treatment for more information on how each of these conditions is treated.)

Understanding Depression and ADHD

In recent years, ADHD has been a subject of great public attention and concern. ADHD symptoms include an inability to stay focused on a task, having trouble sitting still, and acting without thinking. These symptoms usually become evident in preschool or early elementary years, and can continue into adolescence and even adulthood (see Adult ADHD). If left untreated, ADHD can have long-term effects on a child's ability to make friends or do well at school or work. Over time, children with ADHD may develop poor self-esteem and other emotional problems.
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away.
Possible signs of depression include:
  • Persistently feeling sad, anxious, or helpless
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Thoughts of suicide.
However, not everyone who is depressed experiences all of these symptoms. Some people experience several symptoms of depression; others, only a few. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and over time as well.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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