Mothers of ADHD kids at risk for depression

If you are the mother of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may be at increased risk for depression, according to a study conducted by a Louisiana-based family physician.

Dr. Louis McCormick conducted a year-long study of mothers of children with ADHD who were patients in his Franklin, La., medical practice. Of the 39 mothers who took the study’s Self-Test for Depression, 21 had scores that suggested depression. Eleven women scored in the “minimal to mild” range; five in the “moderate to marked” range; and five in the “severe to extreme” range. The mothers were then interviewed, diagnosed and, where appropriate, treated.

So, what does this study really mean? McCormick theorizes that the stress of parenting an ADHD child can create situational depression, that is, depression caused by a specific stressful life event: divorce, death of a loved one, losing one’s job, an unwilling move to another location, ill parents and, of course, in this case, a child with an extremely demanding and frustrating condition which, in some cases, can also create financial distress.

ADHD children are often loud, physically overactive, impulsive, and seemingly unwilling to follow directions. They can be reckless, even accident-prone. They may alienate their friends, frustrate their teachers, and annoy neighbors, thereby causing their mothers great distress on many levels.

While certainly there is treatment for ADHD, it requires much time and fine-tuning to develop the appropriate skills for dealing with a child’s behavior, and for the overall treatment (which sometimes includes medication) to be effective. This requires great patience and persistence from the parents. This can take a major psychological toll on mothers who are most often the primary caretakers.

In some cases, mothers may have a biological predisposition to depression. The enormous stress of parenting an ADHD child, McCormick believes, triggers that predisposition to depression, and is an underlying, additional layer of the situational depression.

It is extremely important to be aware of the possible increased risk of depression if you are the mother of a child with ADHD so that you will be as vigilant about your own health as you are about your child’s.

If you suspect that you may suffer from depression, have seen your family physician to eliminate any physiological causes, you can request a self-test or other appropriate test from a professional counselor or psychologist. You can take the test in the privacy of your home, and then discuss the results with your chosen counselor. Together, you can decide whether treatment would be helpful for you.

It is critical for anyone who is a caregiver to be certain they attend to their own physical and psychological needs. It is especially important for mothers of ill children because the stressful demands of the child’s needs are constant for twenty-four hours every day. So for yourself, you need to be a healthy woman as well as a healthy mother.

Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, and clarify and achieve life and career goals. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at or 978 546-9431.

Mothers of ADHD kids at risk for depression » Lifestyle », Gloucester, MA.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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