ADHD & depression: what’s the connection?

There are a lot of questions when it comes to ADHD and depression. How do you know if it is depression or ADHD? Can ADHD make you depressed?

There is indeed a connection between ADHD and depression: up to 30% of children who have ADHD also have a serious mood disorder like depression. In fact, some experts believe that more than half of people who have ADHD will get treatment for depression at some point in their lives.[i]

ADHD and depression share common symptoms, and when they occur together, ADHD can make the symptoms of depression worse, and vice versa. Challenges with concentration and executive functioning can be exacerbated with ADHD-depression comorbidity. [ii]

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based disorders. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD, depression, anxiety, and other brain-based disorders, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that most commonly appears in childhood. However, it affects both children and adults. These individuals face challenges sustaining attention and some struggle with hyperactivity and impulsivity. These symptoms can lead to difficulties in every area of one’s life.[iii]

Research suggests that genetics, environmental factors, and complications during pregnancy, labor, and delivery may play a role in the development of ADHD. Further studies implicate brain injury, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature birth, and low birth weight as additional risk factors. [iv]

Although there is no known cure for ADHD, at the Drake Institute we have had some patients that no longer meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD after completing our treatment program. At the very least, most patients that we treat have a reduction of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, and now have better lives.

What is depression?

Depression is a type of mood disorder that can also affect children and adults. It is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed, and a range of physical and cognitive symptoms.

As with ADHD, the causes of depression may include genetic predisposition, differences in brain physiology, and possible environmental factors. Certain other health conditions, including biomedical imbalances and thyroid disease, can contribute to depression symptoms.[v]

Depression can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, neurostimulation, or our preferred brain map-guided neurofeedback protocols.

Can you have both ADHD & depression?

ADHD and depression can run together. In fact, 18.6% to 53.3% of people who have ADHD also have depression. And in many cases, the more severe the ADHD symptoms, the more severe the depression symptoms tend to be.[vi]

The symptoms of ADHD and depression can be similar and often overlap. Both conditions may contribute to difficulties in concentration, low energy, and mood changes.

At the Drake Institute, we typically treat depression first so one’s mood can improve rather quickly. Our patients with ADHD and depression clinically do best when we can help relieve the depression first. Then we treat any remaining ADHD symptoms.

While ADHD and depression affect both males and females, girls experience a higher risk of developing depression with ADHD. [vii]

How are ADHD & depression similar?

Sometimes it can be complicated to differentiate symptoms from ADHD or depression because they can appear similar. Successful treatment depends on identifying which disorder is causing the problem, and sometimes, both disorders are involved.[viii]

Some of the most common overlapping symptoms between ADHD and depression are:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble with focus and concentration
  • Sleep disruption
  • Restlessness
  • Boredom

How to tell ADHD & depression apart

When it comes to ADHD vs. depression, it may require a careful clinical evaluation to differentiate between the two disorders, due to their overlapping symptoms. However, the disorders don’t have all the same symptoms; a few key symptoms of depression do not overlap with ADHD, including:[ix]

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Feeling hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide or death

Both patients with ADHD and depression can lose interest in activities, but it’s key to understanding why. A person with depression may lose interest in a hobby because they may be overwhelmed by despair. Meanwhile, a person with ADHD may lose interest in a hobby because of boredom and lack of stimulation. [x]

When trying to decipher is it depression or ADHD, clinical history can illuminate which symptoms developed first. At the Drake Institute, we also utilize qEEG brain mapping to analyze brain functioning to determine if there is any dysregulated brainwave activity linked to ADHD or depression symptoms. This can help us determine which disorder may be primarily driving the symptoms.

Does ADHD cause depression?

Does ADHD cause depression? Or is depression a symptom of ADHD?

The challenges associated with ADHD can contribute to an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms. When an ADHD patient is frequently criticized for poor performance or behavior, it takes its toll on their self-esteem. Their symptoms are typically not intentional but are a byproduct of their brain being dysregulated where it can’t meet daily expectations.

Also, the chronic difficulties individuals with ADHD face in areas such as impulse control, executive functioning, and maintaining attention can create ongoing stressors.[xi] Not being successful with responsibilities in academic, work, and/or social settings may contribute to feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, and a sense of inadequacy - all leading to an increased vulnerability to depression.

The emotional dysregulation that can be associated with ADHD may increase susceptibility to mood disturbances.[xii] The impulsivity and difficulty in managing intense emotions can contribute to problems with interpersonal relationships, further impacting emotional well-being and the possibility of developing depression. [xiii]

So, can ADHD make you depressed? Improperly or untreated ADHD can indeed increase the risk of developing depression at some point.

Risk factors for developing ADHD & depression

Several risk factors contribute to the development of both ADHD and depression, although they may vary between the two conditions. For example, genetic differences may influence mood instability in both ADHD and depression.[xiv] [xv] Another genetic risk factor is the mental health of the individual’s mother. Depression during pregnancy increases the chances of the child developing ADHD. [xvi]

Another risk factor is being female; girls are more likely to develop depression alongside ADHD than their male counterparts.[xvii]  Additionally, untreated ADHD may lead to a higher likelihood of developing depression due to all the frustrations and stress produced by falling short of expectations, absorbing significant disapproval and criticisms, and struggling to succeed in the important areas of one's life. [xviii] Self-judgement can take a toll on one's self-esteem, increasing the risk of developing depression.

How are ADHD & depression diagnosed?

To determine whether ADHD or depression is the cause of a patient’s symptoms, along with a thorough clinical history, we also analyze the patient’s brain functioning with qEEG brain mapping to identify any regions or networks in the brain that are dysregulated linked to symptoms of ADHD or depression, or both disorders.


Diagnosing ADHD requires a comprehensive evaluation of clinical and developmental history.

To diagnose ADHD, clinicians use the diagnostic guidelines outlined in the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This evaluation determines if the individual demonstrates the core characteristics of ADHD, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms must be exhibited for a certain duration to be considered as matching the criteria. Likewise, they must significantly impair various aspects of daily living, such as at work or school, or in social settings.[xix]

Diagnosing ADHD involves taking a detailed history of the individual, alongside clinical interviews and standardized symptom rating scales. As stated above, we also include qEEG brain mapping.


To diagnose depression, a clinical evaluation is performed, and at the Drake Institute, we also include qEEG brain mapping. In addition, for our adult patients, we complete stress testing with biofeedback instruments. Higher levels of psychophysiological tension can be associated with depression. . [xx]

How the Drake Institute Treats ADHD & depression

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated and linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.






















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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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