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Adult ADHD and Depression: Is It Primary or Secondary & Why It Matters?

Adult ADHD and DepressionYou’re in a funk. Unfocused and unmotivated.

Is it depression? Or something else?

Could it have something to do with your ADHD?

It certainly could!

Adult ADHD and depression often go hand-in-hand.

Of course, if you’re afflicted with ADHD, it doesn’t mean you’re depressed, neither does suffering from depression automatically mean you have ADHD.

The possibility, though, is great.

According to research, an adult with ADHD is nearly three times more likely to suffer from depression than the rest of the adult-aged populace.

However, both ailments affect mood and personality, which can make it difficult to come to a precise diagnosis. And since there is no biological test to identify either condition, a diagnosis has to be based on observation of symptoms and clinical history.

Typically, the classification of depression is broken down into primary and secondary depression.

What Are Primary and Secondary Depression?

Diagnosis depends largely on what causes the ailment. Consider the differences.

Primary Depression

Some adults experience depression for no obvious reasons—no unpleasant circumstances or traumatic events in their lives. It appears that the risk for their depression is largely due to genetic predisposition, taking certain medications, or abusing substances, and may be connected to hypersensitivity. In view of the absence of psychologically or medically-based triggers, this type of depression is called “primary depression.”

Secondary Depression

Other adults experience depression due to the chronic frustration and disappointment connected to living with a medical or psychological condition. This is often the case when a person with ADHD wasn’t diagnosed when they were young and has not received appropriate treatment or help to manage their ADHD as an adult. Because this type of depression is clearly triggered by continuous negative circumstances—like repeated blows to their self-esteem—it is called “secondary depression.”

The Subtle Distinctions in Symptoms Between Primary and Secondary Depression

It can be difficult to distinguish between primary and secondary depression because both conditions have similar symptoms. In general, research has shown that symptoms of secondary depression are not as severe, prolonged, or life-threatening as those of primary depression.

Consider some of the subtle differences:

  • Emotions – The dark moods associated with ADHD are usually temporary and are triggered by specific setbacks. While the mood swings of depression are commonly long-lasting and recurring.
  • Sleeping Problems – Those suffering from ADHD frequently have difficulties “turning off” their thoughts and falling asleep. While people with depression often fall asleep quickly, but then repeatedly wake up during the night with anxious or negative thoughts in their minds.
  • Motivation – The frustration and agitation common in adults with ADHD can make it seem impossible to decide what to do first to accomplish anything. While feeling sluggish and tired is usually to blame for the lack of motivation in depressed adults.

Why Does It Matter If It Is Primary or Secondary Depression?

Since the causes of primary and secondary depression are different, the approach to a treatment plan will differ. The first step is to work on the problem that causes the greater damage. Then, address the issues that arise from additional maladies.

In the case of adult ADHD with underlying depression, the depression is the greater threat to your well-being. You can approach treatment in a couple of ways.

Natural Depression Relief

If you are taking medication for your ADHD and still experience depression, you may want to try the natural approach to treatment instead of adding more drugs to your regimen.

Natural relief for depression includes:

  • Exercise – Research has confirmed that aerobic exercise—walking, running, dancing, etc.—has a normalizing effect on the mood of those living with ADHD. The benefits are profound and enduring.
  • Meditation – It can calm and center your mind. Try regular, deep breathing, sitting quietly with your eyes closed and focusing on your breathing for a minute or two.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Often minor medication and lifestyle adjustments can help you break free from the gloom of depression. For example, if your mood usually darkens when you have nothing to do, make sure you have interesting distractions at arm’s length, such as a good book to read or a craft project to embark on.
  • Psychotherapy – Studies have found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be highly effective against depression. This treatment can help you reduce the frequency of negative thoughts by teaching you to acknowledge these thoughts and replace them with more constructive versions.

Medicinal Depression Relief

If you suffer from severe depression, prescription medication is a feasible option you may want to pursue:

  • Antidepressants – Despite making lifestyle changes and actively managing your ADHD, your physician may still recommend antidepressants if your depression is persistent. The reason is, medication can help boost levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which typically are low in individuals with depression. Most antidepressants work well in conjunction with ADHD medications. And approximately half of those who take them find complete relief from the symptoms of their depression.

It may take a little bit of investigating and adjusting, but once you understand what causes your depression you can address it with much more confidence. Effective remedies for treating your depression are available, and experienced professionals are willing to assist. There’s no need to suffer any longer!

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