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Children and Teens With ADHD and Depression

Parent of children with ADHD must pay attention if their child’s behavior changes. Sometimes when a very active child becomes more quiet, their parents believe this is a good sign because the hyperactivity is subsiding. Unfortunately their child could be exhibiting symptoms of depression.

In fact, children and teens with ADHD are at risk for developing depression as much as 3 times greater than for other children. As many as 25% of teens with ADHD are depressed. Research points to two underlying factors that can trigger depression in children or teens with ADHD.

Depression shares certain symptoms with ADHD, such as inability to concentrate, mood swings, irritability and agitated behavior, making it difficult to know whether a child is suffering from depression, ADHD or both. Seek professional help for an accurate and timely diagnosis.

We can assume that many children with ADHD experience daily negative feedback from parents, teachers, bus drivers and even their peers lowering their self-esteem. This constant feeling of malaise with the world around them, results in enough stress, frustration and anger that they can be driven to depression.

But the depression is not only cause by demoralization that can result from the day to day struggles of dealing with ADHD. Research has suggested that depression in children and teens with ADHD is a co-morbid disorder. ADHD and depression co-exist and have to be both treated separately

Parents must be vigilant to note any changes in their child with ADHD because the depression must be attended to. Some changes and behaviors that should trigger an alarm bell are:

*No energy or fatigue nearly every day

* Stops talking, withdraws from the family by retreating into his/her room

* Odd sleeping patterns , insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day

* Constant low, depressed or irritable mood most of the day

* Overly emotional over trivial matters, frequent mood changes

*Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities

*Changes in eating habits accompanied by significant weight loss or weight gain

*Tearfulness or frequent crying

*Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt

*A strong sense of not being understood and approved of by parents, siblings, or peers

*Feelings of wanting to leave home, wanting to run away

*Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal thoughts

At the first signs of depression seek professional help. Left untreated, depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing and escalate from there. It is a fact that untreated depression is very risky and potentially fatal.

Take action right away. The parents and other adults in a child's life must intervene because the child does not understand what depression is and he does not realize that how he is feeling in not the norm.

A professional evaluation is needed to distinguish between normal moodiness, ADHD symptoms and depression. Depression does not go away by itself. With proper diagnosis and treatment a depressed child or teen can be greatly helped.

Always keep open lines of communications with your child, your child's friends and teachers. Parents and teachers working together, with the child following a professional’s counsel, is the only way to assure your child will get all the guidance and support he needs for both his ADHD and depression

What were the first symptoms you noticed when your child became depressed?

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Comment by Lorna d'Entremont on November 5, 2010 at 10:39am
Sue, thanks for your additional information on this serious topic. As you point out, depression can be lethal. All adults in close contact with troubled teens, parents, teachers and professionals, cannot dismiss any symptoms and must strive to work with the whole person and not only with pieces of his lilfe. Like for Humpty Dumpty those ADULTS are 'the king's horses and all the king's men' that MUST "...put this TEEN together again"
Comment by Sue Wilkinson on November 5, 2010 at 12:42am
Lorna, thanks for posting this relevent topic. I frequently encountered kids with anxiety and/or depression when treating adolescents and young adults. Sometimes the issues co-existed with the SPD, ADHD, LD or other gifts the whole person had. This stage of life is characterized by very strong emotions. The emotions are not to be minimized. Depression can be a lethal. It is important to work closely with the teen, parents, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I've had OT's tell me they feel guilty when the social emotional issues disrupt the planned SPD session-?! What?! Have we forgotten the therapeutic use of self? Have we forgotten our roots in mental health? Have we forgotten the impact of disruption of human occupation? Part of the introduction to OT with teens and young adults is to enlist them in assessing their lives in terms of Body, Mind, and Spirit. Part of depression has to do with locus of control. When we work to develop insight, it is important to have the individual involved in the ongoing assessment and the direction of treatment. There are so many amazing and beautiful things that happen with this age group. Those hormones that parents tend to curse(!), actually bathe the brain in neurotransmitors, making the brain much more neuroplastic, and capable of change than we previously new. The frontal cortex is still developing helping abstract concepts become understandable (wisdom). The neuroplasticity also enhances the abilities of the body to connect with the brain, making wonderful strides in SPD treatment. Hmmm, maybe we should start a Be Kind To Teens Month? Thanks for introducing this topic, Lorna.

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