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Depression and ADHD

Teen daughter with depression and anxiety

My teen daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in January and is taking medication that seems to be helping.  Last night she wrote me a long letter explaining her feelings of anxiety and depression.  She has always been a social person and very talented in acting, singing and writing. Lately, she has no interest in trying out for plays or going to social events.  She has become attached to specific articles of clothing that make her feel more secure, she wears head phones and plays music constantly she says to drown out her anxious feelings.  I don’t want her to become addicted to stimulants to help her cope, but that’s my fear.  She will graduate next year and then to college where there are endless avenues she could take, good and bad.  I want to help her but I am at a lost as to where to go and what to do first.


Unfortunately, you will find that depression and ADHD are very commonly comorbid (disorders that go side-by-side). You do not say what medication she is taking for ADHD. Is she taking Strattera? My son became very withdrawn and morose when he tried Strattera. I also feel like Vyvanse may have contributed to his depression. Sometimes an anti-depressant medication can be helpful for ADHD. Everyone reacts differently to different medications, so there is no one drug that works for everyone. You really need to talk with her prescribing doctor and explain the new symptoms. It sounds like a medication change may be needed.

Posted by artistmom on Mar 16, 2014 at 11:51pm

Thinking of you and your daughter during this difficult time.  I am going to give you a couple of things to think about, so I ask you to please take a moment to read, then re-read and fully answer the questions I pose, because there could be any number of things going on with a teen girl, separately or together.

First, Is there any family history of anxiety or depression on either side of the family, or any other mental illness like bipolar?  If so, has this been discussed fully with the treating physician? 

Second?  Are there any environmental factors that could be influencing the changes- school pressures, boyfriend, death in the family, fears about college, friendship issues?  While our kids are often resistant to therapy, a good therapist can make a world of difference in helping them work through many issues and learn to deal with their struggles.

Third- As the previous poster mentioned, which medicine is she taking?  Some medicines have worse side effects than others and can increase anxiety. Has this been mentioned by the Dr. or explored at all?

Fourth- and hand in hand with the first, our doctor has mentioned that ADHD often has a “friend”- and it is usually Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Anxiety.  Depression is less common, but can certainly occur with ADHD (especially if there is a family history).  So there could just happen to be a co-occuring disorder.  It would be important to look at any factors that could be influencing this.

Fifth- Addiction to stimulants usually is not a problem if a person truly is ADHD- A person without ADHD becomes addicted or they can be addicted if they start taking more than prescribed.  Medicine for a person with ADHD when taken as prescribed is like taking medicine for any other medical problem… but they need to be taken only as prescribed.  Yes, the dose may need to be adjusted over time, and you need to be sure that you have an excellent (psychiatrist) if one is available.  You and she may choose non-stimulants or other options at different points in her care (exercise, neurofeedback).  Having ADHD is not just about making good grades, but it affects the way we relate to people, how well we drive, our ability to concentrate and focus, our organizational skills, and how we feel about ourselves as people overall.  As an adult, I have worked through some of this, but my ADHD meds help my driving so much that I stay on them for that one reason alone. 

Ya’ll have just started down this road.  Don’t sweat the small stuff just yet.  Help her through the biggies like the anxiety and depression and learning how to manage what it means to have ADHD in a fast paced world by building on the strengths that ADHD has given her, and the rest will fall into place.

(from a mom with ADHD with a young teen daughter with ADHD, anxiety, and some other junk thrown in!)
PS… we have anxiety, ADHD, depression, and about 5 other Mental Health diagnoses in the family, so we’ve learned it all the hard way.

Posted by MollyMS on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:02am

If she was social and doing well before the meds and is now having problems with anxiety and depression after she started on the new meds, my guess would be it’s the new meds with some side effects.

Call your doctor.

Posted by chrisd on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:47am

My daughter was diagnosed with ADD last year, she is 14 this year.  She tried Ritalin but it messed up with her sleep way too much to the point that she was just not coping so we went off that for the Christmas period.  We only went on Strattera earlier this year when school and all it’s organisational requirements for assessments became too much and she had a few meltdowns.  She is on 40mg and we are still trying to get the dose right.  She has now become irritated, cranky and sad once again, and says that nothing helps with the sadness, she has had it for a long time.  How do I know how much is Depression and or just hormones and normal stuff girls go through.  I want to help her so much, and fear that she is Depressed. She self harmed last year, minor attempts, however, she was very sad then too. Any suggestions

Posted by Buffycat on Apr 01, 2014 at 4:43pm

I applaud you for listening to your daughter.  This age is very difficult for teasing out what is what like you have said.  Since she has attempted self harm, has she attended any counseling, or is she in counseling now?  Do her moods seem to come and go with her menstrual cycles?  Has she mentioned any trouble at school or with friends that could be triggering her feelings?

Based on how you say she describes her feelings, I would suggest that she talk with a therapist to help determine if her sadness/depression is related to growing up and hormones or if is more clinically significant.  It sounds like it may be on the more serious side, but that is just from a couple of paragraphs, and even minor self-harm is significant.  Then the therapist would refer for medication evaluation if needed for depression or other mood problems.

From what I recall from my own teen years, my moodiness was directly related to either problems with friends, school, or boys and came and went depending on the situation.  It was brief, and while I felt it deeply, it was not pervasive.  Likewise, moodiness that occurs just before and at the onset of menses is normal, unless it is very disruptive.

I wish you and your DD well.  I hope you are able to find help for her.

Posted by MollyMS on Apr 02, 2014 at 6:23am

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