Four ways to effectively manage adult ADHD and depression

People with ADHD have a higher chance of becoming depressed. The good news is that both these conditions are highly treatable. Medication, therapy and healthy lifestyle choices all form part of a complete treatment plan to effectively manage ADHD and depression.

The prevalence of this combination of conditions is a reality. Depression is estimated to be 2.7 times more prevalent among adults with ADHD than among the general adult population.

Some adults with ADHD become depressed for no obvious reason, which is known as primary depression. But you can also become depressed if your ADHD is left untreated or is poorly managed. These cases are known as secondary depression.

Fortunately, various remedies exist to treat depression and they are as effective for adults with ADHD as they are for people without ADHD. Most antidepressants also work well alongside ADHD medication. If you suspect that you have either or both of these conditions, it’s vital that you go see a doctor.

You can also use our ADHD self-assessment tool to see if your symptoms could be consistent with adult ADHD.

If you haven’t received treatment for either ADHD or depression before, your doctor may decide to start by treating one of them first. If depression affects your ability to perform everyday tasks or puts you at risk of hurting yourself, they will recommend treating this condition right away. If your ADHD needs more urgent attention, your doctor will suggest a comprehensive treatment plan for tackling the disorder.

Here are four ways to effectively manage a combination of ADHD and depression:

1. Medicine

Severe depression is often treated with antidepressants that can boost levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Most of these medicines work well alongside ADHD medication, although your doctor might have to make minor adjustments to dosages.

The first step to finding a medication regimen that works for you is to be honest with you doctor about your symptoms and the things in your life that are important to you. With this information, they will be able to pinpoint a treatment plan that works for you. It’s also important to let your doctor know if you experience side effects so they can fine-tune your medication.

2. Therapy

Your doctor may also recommend any of a number of therapies to help you work through the negative emotions that ADHD and depression may cause.

Talk therapy, which is also known as psychotherapy, can help you develop skills to tackle depression when it shows up in your life. It’s a potent form of treatment, especially when combined with medication.

Cognitive therapy can help build up your self-esteem. This form of therapy can give you the mental tools and coping skills to reframe negative thoughts as soon as they pop into your mind.

3. Exercise

It can be hard to exercise if you are depressed, but it has been proven that exercise improves depression. While exercise is only one element of a complete approach to treating ADHD and depression, it’s very valuable.

Working out kickstarts a series of biological events in your body that results in a number of health improvements, from protection against diseases to better sleep. Gentle, low-intensity exercises are especially powerful. They release proteins in your body called neurotrophic or growth factors. They cause nerve cells to grow, which improve nerve cell connections, and with it, depression.

4. Mindfulness and meditation

Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety and depression relapses. Mindfulness and meditation will most likely never be the first line of treatment for ADHD and depression, but it can form part of a holistic plan for treating the conditions.

Mindfulness is a practice that teaches you to pay more attention to what’s happening in the moment. It can help you identify how negative thoughts affect your emotions, which ultimately affects your health. It has short and long-term benefits for your overall health, from physical and psychological wellbeing to improvements in the brain.

Meditation can also complement your treatment plan. It involves sitting quietly, and focusing on your breathing. Try it for a minute or so whenever you have trouble completing an activity or task.

These techniques, practices and treatments can all help to alleviate the emotional and behavioural challenges that come with having ADHD and depression. With a treatment plan that’s suited to your life and needs, both these conditions are manageable.

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