Is your ADHD child listless, moody, and socially withdrawn? Several new studies show that ADHD and depression comes hand-in-hand for many children, with those diagnosed with ADHD three times more likely to experience depression than other children. Before delving deeper into the topic, let’s take a look at depression and how children experience this condition together with ADHD.
Depression is a condition that involves much more than simply feeling sad or down. For a person to be depressed, he or she must feel depressed most of the day almost every day – there is a loss of interest in most or all activities, he or she feels lethargic or extremely restless, and he or she is plagued by inappropriate guilt, feelings of worthlessness, and constant thoughts of suicide or death. Additionally, these symptoms must cause significant impairment and distress – that is, they must interfere with a person’s relationships, career, or school performance. In addition, depression as a psychological condition is not due to medications and is not accounted for by grief due to loss of a loved one.
Studies show that kids and adolescents experience the same basic symptoms of depression as adults. Studies also suggest that certain symptoms appear more prominently depending on the age; for instance, adolescents and teens may feel extreme irritability rather than listlessness. Additionally, social withdrawal, motor problem, and sleep problems are more common in children – they are very shy, have poor motor skills, and may sleep too much.
So what would the “typical” depressed ADHD child look like? While no two children are the same, you can generally expect this child to be moody and highly irritable, which is a dramatic change from their usual state. The depressed ADHD child might stop doing or getting excited about the things he or she usually enjoys. The child’s eating patterns changes, and he or she loses weight or gains weight dramatically. The child might also be significantly less energetic, complain about being unable to sleep, or start referring to themselves in overly-critical ways. They also have more difficulty concentrating; their grades may suffer and they may be unable to complete tasks. These behaviors usually persist for a few weeks and are radically different from how the child normally behaves.
Many parents often wonder if the depression might simply be due to being “demoralized” by dealing with ADHD symptoms. However, a new study suggests that depression in children with ADHD may have deeper roots. The researchers of this study looked at 76 boys who were diagnosed with both ADHD and major depression, and followed their progress for 4 years. They discovered that their ADHD symptoms were not related to their major depression; diminished ADHD symptoms did not necessarily lead to diminished depression. On the other hand, the struggles posed by ADHD do pose a risk factor in developing depression.
The good news is that depression in kids with ADHD can be effectively treated with counseling and other therapeutic interventions. In fact, studies show that such interventions are more effective in treating depression than medication. If you suspect that your ADHD child may be depressed, bring your concerns to the doctor and discuss what treatments may help your child.