Are ADHDers more prone to frustration and disappointment? Unlocking ADHD writer Indhu Jayabaskaran looks at depression and how it relates to those with ADHD.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that impairs an individual’s day-to-day life and lowers quality of living. There are various types of depressive disorders, such as major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder. They differ in timing, duration and cause.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, or emptiness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in eating habits and appetite
- Disturbed sleep
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal ideation
Age, Stage and Coping
ADHD, especially when left untreated, puts individuals at a higher risk of depression than those without. Due to the nature of ADHD and its symptoms, people with ADHD are more likely to face numerous disappointments and frustrations.
- Children may have trouble keeping up with schedules and schoolwork.
- Poor executive function makes it harder to stay consistent and focused, causing them to underperform academically.
- They may have trouble getting along with peers, making them feel out of place and alone.
- Late adolescence is a period of significant psychological and environmental changes.
- Repeated negative remarks from adults cause youths with ADHD to lack self-confidence and feel inadequate when facing challenges.
- This is a period of change and transition where they must make decisions for themselves.
- Adults face similar struggles in their workplace and relationships.
- Having higher demands and holding more responsibilities in various areas of their lives can be overwhelming.
- Due to poor executive function and impulse control, they may also have trouble keeping up with the more administrative aspects of life, such as taking care of housing matters or keeping track of spending. This could prove to be a significant source of stress as well.
Individuals might turn to negative coping mechanisms, which include risky behavior, and alcohol and substance abuse. This, together with their negative thoughts and beliefs, could lead to a worsened mental state, leaving them feeling helpless.
It is critical that support is provided to these individuals to help manage their emotions, which will reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
What to do
Seeing a mental health specialist is the first step to getting help. Treatment options depend on various factors such as feasibility and the primary cause of depression. Options include:
There are different types of therapies to help individuals manage ADHD and depression. One type is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps with improving executive function including time management, organization and future planning. It can also help with emotional regulation and stress management.
Antidepressants are the most common medication prescribed by doctors to help with depression. They work by balancing the chemicals in the brain that affect mood and emotions. A doctor will prescribe the medication that is most suitable after considering the individual’s medical history.
Having regular exercise has been proven to help ease depression. Exercise helps to relieve stress and enhances mental wellness by releasing endorphins. It also helps to boost concentration, memory, and motivation by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, all of which help with managing ADHD as well.
Other than exercise, eating balanced and healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness also helps with depression and ADHD symptoms.