Depression in ADHD Kids May Look Different

by Yafa Crane Luria


Coaching kids with Attention Deficit Disorder can be tricky sometimes because ADHD can occur with all kinds of other conditions – anxiety, depression, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Vitamin D deficiency (!!), and more.

What I see most often is depression or anxiety with ADHD, but it doesn’t look like you would imagine. Many of my clients are already being treated for these conditions when I start working with them. In other cases, the parents don’t believe that their kids could be depressed or anxious because the kids go to school, have friends, and they’re not suicidal, they’re not having panic attacks and they don’t have a slew of phobias. What is obvious is that the child is underachieving and many believe this is due to the child’s ADHD, to resistance, and to a lack of motivation.

Mostly what I see is something that, in this article, James Lehman calls “episodic depression,” and it’s so episodic that many parents think I’m waaaay off base when I suggest that they go to a doctor or naturopath to get their child checked out for any possibility of a co-occuring condition or deficiency.

What does Episodic Depression look like?

Among my clients I’ve had kids who:

  • Spend a lot of time online playing games
  • Sleep when stressed
  • Stutter or trip over their words many times a day
  • Spend a lot of time in the bathroom (Yes, I know what they’re doing, but two hours??)
  • Just can’t get their homework done
  • Are unable to look you in the eye
  • Can’t be without their phones
  • Argue for no real reason
  • Refuse any help, and/or
  • Hoard sugary treats.

Eyes of child© Luca Chiartano | Dreamstime.com_252056

It is also common for ADHD children to lie habitually. This is not the sign of a morally bankrupt soul, rather lying is more often about lack of self-esteem. These children use lying to defer criticism, either from themselves or from others. Kids HATE disappointing their parents but most don’t have the executive function capabilities or the emotional maturity to recognize that lying actually creates more trouble, not less, something that most adults see as pretty darn obvious.

What can be done about it?

Let me share the suggestions I offer my clients:

  1. There is no way that criticizing or belittling will get your child to stop feeling bad or improve his or her behavior in the long run. Period. The damage far outweighs any possible benefits (of which I can find none).
  2. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, assume that he or she is experiencing some emotional distress. This will help you choose helpful responses.
  3. Aim for a closer connection rather than pushing them away when they are irritating.
  4. Your job is not to control your child’s behavior but to offer the necessary support so that they don’t need to engage in disruptive or troubling behaviors. That support might be tutoring, ADHD coaching, attending a parenting class, working with your child on coping skills, taking your child to an M.D. or Naturopath. As Lehman writes:

“The most important thing parents can do is help their kids access their problem-solving and coping skills, whether they’re medicated or not, and give them the support they need to develop them. If you’re a depressed kid with no coping skills and you go on medication, then you’re a medicated kid with no coping skills.

A word of caution:

If depression builds and kids feel like they’re falling behind in life, they can start feeling more and more hopeless, more and more stuck, and more and more guilty. For some, thoughts of suicide start to look good.”

I hope this helps.

xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved


What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?

Let’s talk! No judgment, no salesy come-on. However you WILL receive a good deal of TLC and a slew of strategies. You can say anything. You can cry. You can swear. Your confidentiality is guaranteed, and I promise to listen and give you hope and relief. (You might even find yourself spontaneously doing a happy dance).

“Thank you Yafa. You’ve given me incredibly helpful tools! It was really a pleasure to speak with you. I’ll be back in touch in the coming weeks.” Stella R, Portland, OR.

“I really appreciate that I could be vulnerable and you didn’t shoot me down. I feel comfortable with you and your humor brightened the call.” Danielle A, Bellingham, WA.

“I talked with you a year ago, Yafa, and your voice is always in my head, guiding me. I just wanted to email and thank you.” April W, Queensland, Australia

“Thank you for your encouraging, enlightening suggestions.” Jill E, Seattle, WA.

Thank you for ‘being there’ to share your wealth of knowledge and personal experience with us who are ‘floundering’ and ‘lost in the forest’ when it comes to ‘dealing with special and difficult circumstances’. Gratefully yours, Rochelle H, Alberta, Canada xox ((((BIG HUGS)))

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