ADHD and SAD’s Surprising Connection and What to Do About It

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Many with ADHD also suffer with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Find out the reasons behind that and treatments for ADHD and SAD on HealthyPlace.

ADHD and SAD’s Surprising Connection and What to Do About It

It might seem like an unlikely combination. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD; also called seasonal depression) often co-occur. Research suggests that SAD may affect people with ADHD at a higher rate than those without ADHD. Some psychiatrists unofficially report that most of their clients with ADHD experience SAD. This connection holds true for general depression as well: Estimates indicate that depression is almost three times more prevalent in adults with ADHD than without it1.

The ADHD-SAD correlation makes more sense upon knowing that they share several key components:

  • Genetics (overlap in genes that contribute to both disorders)
  • Neurochemistry (including the increased production of melatonin in winter months, which can contribute to depression and makes ADHD harder to live with)
  • Internalization of problems (guilt, self-blame, low self-esteem, negative thinking)

According to author and Senior Certified ADHD coach Jennifer Koretsky2, “The neurological systems of people with ADHD appear to be highly sensitive. We are especially sensitive to change and transitions. So it’s easy to see how a change in duration and intensity of sunlight is sure to have an effect, as is colder weather.”

If you live with ADHD and experience SAD, you’re not doomed to months of misery. These tips can help:

  • Treat both conditions
  • Exercise to balance hyperactivity and lack of energy
  • Medication
  • Eat well
  • Light therapy
  • Limit alcohol
  • Find support
  • See a therapist
  • Know that this is temporary

Sources:

  1. Yagoda, M. (2013). “I live with both ADHD and depression". ADDitude Magazine. Retrieved November 2018 from https://add.org/beat-the-blues-how-adults-with-adhd-can-recognize-and-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
  2. Koretsky, J. (2015). Beat the Blues! How Adults with ADHD Can Recognize and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). attention deficit disorder association (ADDA). Retrieved November 2017 from https://add.org/beat-the-blues-how-adults-with-adhd-can-recognize-and-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
  3. ADDitude Editors. (n.d.). What to do if winter weather makes you sad. ADDitude Magazine. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.additudemag.com/seasonal-affective-disorder-adhd-comorbid-depression/

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Last Updated: 04 December 2018

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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