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Antidepressants not working? It might be ADHD

Posted on 06-15-16 in Advocacy, Depression, Medicine

Antidepressants not working? It might be ADHD
The numbers from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBAA) are bleak. Major depressive disorder affects 14.8 million Americans. Worse, the DBAA also reports nearly 2 out of 3 affected people never get treated. For those who do get treated, the numbers are sunnier: The National Institute of Health reports up to 80 percent of people treated for depression show improvement in their symptoms within two months.

It’s a good bet many of those patients took antidepressants – an increasingly popular family of drugs. A report from last year appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found antidepressant use increased from nearly 7 percent in 1999 to 13 percent in 2012. But what happens when the drugs don’t work?

Conditions like treatment-resistant depression can be a frightening prospect for patients already dealing with depression and anxiety. However, a new study may have found a different culprit in some cases where antidepressants weren’t effective. The research, presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s (ADAA) 2016 conference, may have found undiagnosed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a culprit in some cases.

Undiagnosed ADHD might cause antidepressant failure

Researchers from the START Clinic for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Toronto examined 105 people aged 17 to 71 who had been referred to a clinic for various mood and anxiety disorders – but not ADHD. Patients were interviewed about the number of diagnoses they had received, their medication history and the number of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications they had tried.

The results showed more than 28 percent of the patients had undetected ADHD, with the highest rates being in patients who had more diagnoses as well as unsuccessful experiences with SSRIs and medications. The findings led the researchers to suggest a lack of response to antidepressant therapy in patients may be due to ADHD, and not treatment-resistant depression.

What are SSRIs?

According to Mayo Clinic, SSRIs work by affecting how the brain reabsorbs serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to be involved with maintaining moods. SSRIs prevent the the reabsorption – or reuptake – of serotonin in the brain, which appears to lift the mood. As SSRIs seem to chiefly affect serotonin, they’re called “selective.”

Although SSRI drugs, used since the 1980s, are generally effective and safe, they also have potential side effects. Like all other medications, SSRIs should only be used with medical supervision.

Adult ADHD

Despite being a condition more often associated with childhood, a study published in the journal Pediatrics showed ADHD can persist into adulthood. In the study, led by a Boston Children’s Hospital researcher, found 29.3 percent of patients who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood still showed symptoms in later life. Additionally, ADHD patients were nearly 57 percent more likely to have at least one other psychiatric disorder.

Mayo Clinic reports many adults may actually be unaware they have the disorder, merely noticing that average, everyday tasks are more of a challenge. As for symptoms, adult ADHD largely features the same symptoms, which can include:

1.) Excessive activity
2.) Frequent mood swings
3.) Low tolerance for frustration
4.) Poor impulse control
5.) Problems with time management and planning

Many adults with ADHD often have at least one other mental disorder, Mayo Clinic warns, which can consist of:

1.) Anxiety disorders
2.) Learning disabilities
3.) Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression
4.) Other disorders, including substance abuse

Although ADHD’s exact cause is still unknown, there may be genetic and environmental components to the disorder.

Seeking treatment

Drugs aren’t the only tool to treat depression and anxiety. The Sovereign Health Group’s treatment professionals also utilize psychotherapy tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy to teach our clients new ways of understanding and dealing with their disorders. Our dual diagnosis approach treats both the condition as well as any substance abuse disorders driving it, ensuring the best chance at a complete recovery. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at