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Is it ADHD or is it Depression?


During the assessment process it is of great importance for the physician or clinician to consider other possible causes of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity in your child, or teen, or yourself. In fact, this is probably the most important element of a good assessment. There are several possible causes of these behaviors, especially in children, and the clinician must have great certainty that these other possible causes have been ruled out before giving the label of "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" to your child.

In this issue we will discuss the possibility that your child has depression rather than an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, lymbic type.

When one is depressed several of the following symptoms will be noted. Someone with four or five of the following symptoms should probably see a physician or other professional to get a real assessment done.

The common symptoms of depression include:
· Physical Hyperactivity, or Lack of Activity (Hypoactivity)
· Change of Appetite, either Less or More
· Change in Sleeping, either Less or More
· Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
· Loss of energy, increased fatigue
· Feelings of worthlessness, or inappropriate guilt
· Difficulty concentrating
· Thoughts of death or dying
· In children and teens, depression is shows itself with increased aggression, irritability, or isolation from the family.

Sometimes really out of control emotional behavior is attributed to ADHD, but might really be the result of depression! Depression in children and teens often looks to a clinician, who barely knows your child, as ADHD.

One main difference is that depression has a "starting date" and ADHD has been present to some degree or another since birth.
· Does your child seems very sad, or very grouchy or irritable?
· Does it seem like nothing is fun for him, even things he used to like doing?
· Does he seem bored most of the time and just sit around?
· Has he gained a lot or weight? Or lost a lot of weight?
· Does he seem to be sleeping a lot more than usual, and have lots of trouble waking up in the morning? Or does he have unusual trouble getting to sleep at night?
· Does he seem unusually restless or agitated?
· Is he having more trouble than usual paying attention to school work?
· Is it harder for him to make decisions than usual?
· Has your child/teen talked about suicide, or even make attempts, recently?

If three or four of these are true of your child/teen over the past six months, expecially the one about suicide, then we'd recommend that you have him checked out by a therapist, psychologist, or physician who specializes in depression. It is very common to mis-diagnose depression for ADHD, especially by inexperienced therapists and physicians. Learn more at the ADHD Information Library at http://www.newideas.net.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.


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