Many individuals suffering with ADHD are frequently misdiagnosed as simply depressed. While they may be experiencing depression as well, it is easy for the underlying cause of that depression to go unnoticed. This is especially the case with females, as males are diagnosed with the disorder at a rate of two to four times as often.
Author and clinical psychologist, Ari Tuckman, PsyD, says that clinicians often overlook ADHD because they aren’t thinking about it. It’s the ‘see what you want to see’ syndrome.
However, ADHD and depression do often go hand in hand. Adults suffering with ADHD will go on to battle the disorder their entire lives, but learning how to daily manage the illness can prove taxing. Since ADHD adds an extra layer of stress to people’s existence, Tuckman isn’t surprised that many end up depressed.
While initially depression and ADHD look similar, they are actually very different, says Tuckman. Whereas depression usually comes in waves, ADHD is constant.
The two are easily confused because both conditions can cause mood swings, irritability, lack of focus, and difficulty sleeping. Because of the chronic nature of ADHD, many people lose hope that they will ever get better. This is especially true before receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
When an individual has both ADHD and mild depression, Tuckman recommends treating the ADHD first to see if depression symptoms dissipate. If the ADHD is causing the depression, this strategy should result in a marked improvement in the patient’s demeanor and self-esteem.
But, in the instance the depression is so severe it inhibits the ability to properly assess the ADHD, then it should be treated first.
Tuckman says that the two are typically addressed at the same time for patients in therapy. If medication is involved, one medication will be introduced at a time, even if different medications for both conditions are needed.
For those struggling with ADHD, Tuckman offers a few tips.
First, seek treatment. Getting the symptoms of ADHD under control can really lift a person’s spirits. Second, don’t lose hope. Many individuals notice marked improvement with proper treatment over time.
Finally, don’t let lack of motivation become a hindrance to taking action. While something might not sound appealing initially, it might be just what you needed in the long-run.