Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum looks at depression in children, the overlapping symptoms between depression and ADHD and ways to manage them.
Depression Symptoms in Children
Children with ADHD face co-morbidities when their primary condition co-occurs with another condition such as depression. For such children, the stress and anxiety of their two or more conditions may multiply the effects on their wellbeing. Studies show that individuals with ADHD are more likely to be depressed or to experience depressive episodes. Early detection of symptoms of depression in children is thus important in guiding them towards management of their conditions and recovery.
There are several symptoms for depression to look for in ADHD children, such as
- Low energy and/or negative moods
- Sudden disinterest in favourite activities
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Disrupted sleep and eating patterns
- Weight loss or gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Drop in academic and/or non-academic performance
- Recent refusal to do school work and go to school
- Talking about concerning topics like suicide, hopelessness, helplessness
- Be more disruptive, impulsive, inattentive, and acting out more
- Even more disorganised
- Easily overwhelmed more frequently
Co-morbid depression and ADHD conditions may even amplify each other’s symptoms, causing even more acute suffering (more information).
Reasons for Depression
The causes are highly complex and difficult to reduce to a single cause. Depression may have a hereditary cause whereby a family member has a history of depression, and in such cases, this type of depression is referred to as “primary” depression that has little relation to life experiences. For “secondary” depression that is triggered by life experiences such as abuse and bullying, it may arise after the ADHD condition is diagnosed (more information).
ADHD may even predispose children to depression due to disregulated dopamine levels and/or emotional dysregulation (more information). A 2008 scientific study also highlighted that there is growing evidence about depression in ADHD youth being caused by a confluence of factors, namely a chronic history of functional deficits, and environmental and genetic factors.
Tips to Deal with Depression in ADHD children
Adult caregivers of ADHD children may consider the following:
- Physical movement
- Outdoor activities
- Art therapy
- Lifestyle adjustments e.g., less stress and more time to decompress
- Balanced diet
- Appropriate praises and more encouragement from parents
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Counselling and/or support groups
- Medication and antidepressants
More information about ADHD and Depression, and its connection, risks and treatment can be found here.
Ultimately, parents and adults may better support and reassure their ADHD children by reminding and showing them that mental and emotional wellness is important and that there are systems and strategies in place to tackle this.