ADHD and depression

By Peg Rosen

ADHD doesn’t cause depression, but the two conditions often occur together. Kids with are much more likely to be depressed than kids who don’t have ADHD. That’s especially true as they hit the teen years.

Why do these conditions often co-occur? One reason is that ADHD can create a lot of challenges for kids, and those challenges can lead to depression. School and behavior problems can wear down their self-esteem. Trouble with social skills can make them feel isolated.

Some people with ADHD may also be “pre-wired” for depression. ADHD involves differences in brain chemistry. And some of these differences may make people more likely to feel depressed. 

ADHD also often co-occurs with anxiety and substance abuse. Both of these can increase the risk of depression. Researchers are looking into other things that may make kids and teens with ADHD more likely to be depressed. These include gender, family history, and age of ADHD diagnosis.

It’s important to take signs of depression or talk of hopelessness seriously. Young people who have both ADHD and depression also have a higher risk of suicide than young people who only have one of these conditions. 

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    About the author

    About the author

    Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.