ADHD in early childhood increases risk of teen depression



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Posted on January 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Jan 15 at 1:42 PM

High school freshman Charlie Smith was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, very early. His first grade teacher spotted telltale signs.

"She just suggested we get him tested because he was all over the place, and having a hard time concentrating. And he was starting to fall behind," said Denae Smith, Charlie's mother.

He comes to a clinic at Seattle Children's that was created to serve kids with complex ADHD.

University of Washington Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dr. Chris Varley directs the clinic. He talked about the struggles kids like Charlie face, who are diagnosed as young as age 4. A new study showed their ADHD hasn't gone away.

"And also, as the kids got older, there was a high rate of depression in this population, and accompanying that, there was a high rate of thinking about suicide, and even some kids who attempted suicide," said Dr. Varley.

Charlie Smith has not experienced depression. But he can see why others might.  The disorder, and taking medicine at school, set him apart.

"Being picked on, it was a little problem in 5th grade, but going into 6th grade I was in fear just because of this. ADHD was going to be even a bigger problem. I'd get even more made fun of," he said.

Which kids face a higher chance of depression? The study, which appeared in the"Archives of General Psychiatry", showed they were the ones with early anxiety and behavior problems. Also girls, and children whose moms became depressed.

Dr. Varley said parents need to take warning signs seriously.

"Recent evidence of decline in function, recent evidence of withdrawal from friendships, recent evidence of decline in school functioning specifically, emergence of substance abuse," he said.

So how does Charlie avoid depression? He said learning to be organized allowed him to start his own lawn care business. He credits his health care provider at Seattle Children's, his medication, and his own resolve to get his grades up.

"I'm actually wanting to take control, and not like letting the medication do it for me," he said.

Dr. Varley said if a child with ADHD shows signs of depression don't delay. Set up a visit with his or her doctor.