ADHD Depression and Teenagers

Share it now

ADHD, and Depression

With as many as 25% of teenagers with ADHD being clinically depressed, it is important to understand what depression looks like, why it is important to treat it and manage it, and the treatment options available.

When we think of someone who is depressed, we usually picture a sad, tearful, lonesome person. But teenagers with depression don't look like adults with depression.

Current studies show that there are about as many teenagers who are depressed as there are adults that are depressed, about 10% of the general population. And as we have noted, as many as 25% of teens with ADHD are depressed.

However, depression in teenagers doesn’t always look like depression in adults. Teenagers do not commonly display gloom, self-depreciation, or talk about feeling hopeless like adults do.

Teenagers with Major Depression are described as often becoming negative and antisocial. Feelings of wanting to leave home or wanting to run away will increase. There may be a strong sense of not being understood and approved of by parents, siblings, or peers.

Teenagers and Depression: What Parents Need to Know

From the ADD ADHD Information Library, and Doug Cowan, Psy.D., clinical editor. Many teenagers suffer from depression, and many diagnosed with ADHD also have depression. It is important for parents to understand depression in teenagers, ...

The teen often changes, and becomes more restless, grouchy, or aggressive. A reluctance to cooperate in family ventures, and withdrawing from the family by retreating into their room is pretty common.

School difficulties are likely even in those few ADHD teens who were doing pretty well in school, as concentration is even more affected than from the ADHD alone.


Sometimes the teen will stop paying attention to personal appearance, and sometimes they will adopt the “uniform” of social groups that profess depression or despondency as a way of life. They often become much more emotional “at every little thing.” Often there is an increased sensitivity to rejection in love relationships as well.

Which reminds me of a Cornell University study that reported that the leading cause of teenage depression was breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. And that the younger the teen was in this relationship, the more likely the breakup would lead to depression.

Teenage boys will often become aggressive with their parents or peers, seem more agitated around the house, and get into more trouble at home, at school, or with the law.

Teenage girls will sometimes become preoccupied with themes of death or dying, and become decreasing concerned about how they look. Think black – black hair, nails, clothes, lips.

Suicidal thoughts are common in depressed teens. Some studies suggest that 500,000 teens attempt suicide each year, and 5,000 are successful. That would be 10% of depressed teens. Other studies suggest that the number is 15% of depressed teens ending their life via suicide.

By the way, another study notes that of all the teenagers that commit suicide each year, only seven percent were receiving mental health treatment at the time of their death.

Poor self-esteem is common with teenagers, but especially with those who are depressed, and there is often an increase in “self-destructive behaviors” such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity.

Parents are often confused and frustrated when their teens begin to act like this. Sometimes parents become stern disciplinarians, or even put the teen down, which only serves to increase feelings of guilt and depression. Other times, parents feel helpless, and stand by waiting for adulthood to arrive. Of course neither course is the right one to take.

From 2001 to 2006, the use of ADHD medicines prescribed to girls was up by nearly 75%, and the use of antidepressant medications was up by nearly 10% in girls.

Share it now