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Depression vs. ADHD

Depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two of the most common mental health diagnoses in the United Kingdom. And while each diagnosis has a distinct set of symptoms, there is often significant overlap between each mental health challenge.

Learning the differences and commonalities between depression vs. ADHD is often the first step in starting the process of recovery. By identifying which disorder you or your loved ones are struggling with, you can find effective ADHD or depression treatment options that can help you break free from your symptoms and achieve holistic mental health.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD is a mental health disorder commonly associated with symptoms in one of two categories: inattentiveness or hyperactivity. ADHD is considered to be a developmental disorder, meaning it is caused by differences in brain development. Symptoms typically start in childhood and can continue well into adulthood.

But if ADHD is not identified and treated in childhood, it can often become more difficult to detect. Hyperactivity symptoms tend to diminish, leaving only the internal symptoms of inattentiveness. As such, ADHD can often be an “invisible illness,” making it difficult for friends, family members, and coworkers to recognize that someone is struggling.

Diagnosing ADHD symptoms is best done with the help of a mental health professional. Accurate diagnosis not only accounts for how people experience their symptoms in the present but for how people behaved as children or adolescents when symptoms were more readily observable. There are a few categories of primary ADHD symptoms.

Inattentiveness

Symptoms of inattentiveness generally refer to difficulty concentrating and focusing. Specific symptoms include:

  • Trouble staying organised
  • Experiencing forgetfulness
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Having a short attention span
  • Having difficulty sticking to a single task
  • Having trouble following instructions
  • Being easily distractible

Everyone, even people without any mental health diagnoses, can struggle with these symptoms from time to time. But for people with ADHD, these symptoms can be pervasive, leading to substantial disruption in your day-to-day life.

Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity symptoms are the second component of an ADHD diagnosis. Sometimes called impulsivity symptoms, they include:

  • Frequent fidgeting
  • Excessive physical movement
  • An inability to sit still
  • Talking over others
  • Acting before thinking
  • Engaging in risky behaviour or having little sense of danger
  • As mentioned above, hyperactivity symptoms tend to diminish in adulthood — but if you experienced these symptoms as a child, it could be an indication of an ongoing diagnosis of ADHD.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Depression is not a single diagnosis but rather a term used to describe a number of different mood disorders. Depression typically refers to a diagnosis known as major depressive disorder, but it could also be used to describe disorders such as:

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder

While each of these different diagnoses has a specific set of causes and symptoms, the experience of depression is universal to them all. The specific symptoms of depression include:

  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Sleep changes, including either insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Psychomotor agitation

The different depression diagnoses have unique criteria for receiving a diagnosis. For example, in major depressive disorder, symptoms need to be present most of the time for at least two weeks. In persistent depressive disorder, symptoms need to occur regularly for at least two years.

Determining if you have a diagnosis of depression requires the help of a mental health professional who can help delineate between the different types of diagnoses and start you on the path of seeking effective depression treatment.

Depression vs. ADHD

Determining the difference between depression vs. ADHD isn’t always easy. Even though many symptoms are distinct, sometimes the symptoms that create the most impact in your life are shared between the two different disorders.

For example, both ADHD and depression can include the hallmark symptom of an inability to concentrate. While this symptom affects countless people with depression, difficulty concentrating is the defining symptom of ADHD. This can lead to countless people with depression incorrectly believing they are dealing with an ADHD diagnosis.

Another shared symptom is psychomotor agitation, which could include pacing, tapping your feet, or generally fidgeting and feeling restless. Experiencing this symptom could indicate either depression or ADHD.

How Often Do ADHD and Depression Co-Occur?

Another common challenge for people trying to determine whether they are dealing with depression or ADHD is the high co-occurrence of these two mental health disorders. People with ADHD are significantly more likely to develop depression, and those with depression are more likely to have an underlying diagnosis of ADHD.

Scientific investigations have found that people with ADHD have more than double the likelihood of experiencing major depressive disorder compared to populations without ADHD. Furthermore, people with ADHD are six times as likely to experience dysthymia — a type of low-grade depression.

The converse is true as well, with people who have a diagnosis of depression having twice the rate of ADHD diagnoses compared to the general population.

Can ADHD Cause Depression?

In certain cases, a diagnosis of ADHD can play a role in developing depression. Living with untreated ADHD can cause a number of challenges in your daily life, including not being able to focus on your work, struggling with social relationships, or not succeeding in school. This can lead to undue stress and challenges that can ultimately take a toll on your mental health.

Stress, particularly chronic stress, is often implicated in the early stages of depression development. When you are struggling daily to manage your symptoms of ADHD, you can quickly feel worn down, start to develop the hallmark symptom of hopelessness, and begin to lose energy and show other signs of depression.

Importantly, the converse isn’t true. Dealing with depression cannot lead to the development of ADHD.

How to Manage ADHD and Depression

Both depression and ADHD are serious mental health challenges. While making certain lifestyle or behavioural changes can help people see improvement, the best way to find relief from symptoms is to find high-quality, evidence-based care from a mental health professional.

The process of starting treatment is relatively simple. It starts with getting a detailed assessment, where a member of our team can help you determine your specific diagnosis, how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, and which treatment options would best suit your personal goals.

Can You Treat ADHD and Depression at the Same Time?

Depression and ADHD can be treated at the same time. The majority of treatment options for both disorders are compatible with one another, and some may even be beneficial in treating both disorders simultaneously.

If you do have co-occurring diagnoses, seeking treatment for both conditions is typically recommended. Treating only one disorder in isolation can leave people feeling let down with treatment, as they often still experience the negative symptoms of one disorder even though the other begins to improve.

But by treating both simultaneously, you can achieve total, holistic mental health and truly reap the rewards of recovery.

Traditional Depression and ADHD Treatment Options

Traditional treatment options for both disorders have historically focused on either behavioural therapy or medication. These treatments have significant scientific support and can often help people achieve total remission.

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapy, or talk therapy, is the first-line approach for treating depression and can be highly beneficial for people with ADHD as well. Therapy for these disorders typically uses one of the following modalities:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

These therapies help people learn how to manage their symptoms, build new skills to help them prevent symptoms from interfering with life in the future, and deal with uncomfortable emotions or frustrations during the process.

Medication Management

Medication management takes a different approach to helping people manage ADHD or depression, using targeted medications that can substantially reduce your symptoms. This can be incredibly beneficial for people with ADHD, as specific medications can often directly address the most challenging symptoms quickly and effectively.

But medication management is more than just a psychiatrist writing you a prescription. Effective medication management takes place over weeks or months, meeting with your psychiatrist regularly to find the medication that is right for you, dial in your dose, and determine when the best time is to take your medication to get the best results.

How APN London Takes Treatment Further

Though therapy and medication are highly effective treatment options, they don’t always work for everyone. Thankfully, APN London offers several other innovative and effective treatment options that can help people achieve their treatment goals even if they’ve tried traditional treatment methods without success.

ADHD Assessment and Treatment

Finding a facility that can provide a thorough and accurate ADHD assessment isn’t always easy. Performing an ADHD assessment requires specialised training, a detailed history-taking process, and a face-to-face meeting with a certified professional.

APN London simplifies this process by having both ADHD assessment and treatment available together under the same roof. By starting treatment here, our team can help you throughout the entire treatment process, from assessment to treatment to follow-up care and beyond.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing is an innovative approach to helping people heal from mental health disorders. Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative psychedelics and has been found to help people delve deeper into the therapeutic process when working one-on-one with a therapist.

In essence, ketamine works as a therapy incubator. The progress people make in a ketamine-assisted healing session could take months or even years in conventional talk therapy approaches. Yet, people can create lasting effects from just one session with the help of ketamine.

Ketamine has rapidly proven itself to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health challenges. And while rapid improvements can be seen in just a single session, repeated sessions can further entrench the improvements you see.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is a unique approach to treating a number of mental health conditions. Certain mental health diagnoses are associated with reductions in electrical activity in particular regions of the brain.

Stimulating these regions with targeted electrical impulses can relieve many of your symptoms and help these regions return to a stable electrical state.

dTMS is an exciting invention of technology that can perform this stimulation completely noninvasively. By using a specialised cap equipped with electromagnets, these regions can be painlessly stimulated after a detailed, customised brain-mapping procedure.

Start Treatment at APN London

Dealing with depression or ADHD can feel debilitating. But there is hope for achieving recovery, provided you seek out effective and evidence-based care at a mental health treatment facility.

To get started at APN London, call our team today at 0203 984 7699 or fill out our confidential online contact form to reach one of our mental health experts to start your path to recovery today.

References

  • McIntosh, Diane et al. “Adult ADHD and comorbid depression: A consensus-derived diagnostic algorithm for ADHD.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment vol. 5 (2009): 137-50. doi:10.2147/ndt.s4720
  • “Overview – Depression in Adults.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/depression-in-adults/overview/. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.
  • “Symptoms -Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.