Children are the last people you'd think would experience inexplicable sadness, listlessness, or hopelessness. After all, childhood is supposed to be the most carefree period of our lives. However, depression in children is not as uncommon as you think, especially among children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Research shows that children with ADHD are three times more likely to experience depression than children without the disorder.
Depression with ADHD can either be "primary" or "secondary". "Primary" depression occurs among children with a family history of depression, and is not triggered by life experiences. Around 50% of children with ADHD cannot regulate their emotions, and this lack of emotional control may be related to primary depression. "Secondary" depression is triggered by ADHD-related problems, such as poor academic performance, lack of friends, or low self-esteem.
The good news is that depression can be treated along with ADHD symptoms, especially if a holistic treatment program is applied. Here are some drug-free options for treating childhood depression.
St. John's Wort
Studies show that St. John's Wort does not treat ADHD per se, but this herb can be used to reduce co-morbid depressive symptoms, especially among children with primary depression. One of the most popular alternative treatments for depression, St. John's Wort has an ingredient called hypericin, which is thought to raise the neurotransmitter levels that affect mood. Hypericin has also been found to reduce excessive adrenal activity, which is related to symptoms of depression. Although you can easily purchase St. John's Wort capsules at a health food store, consult a doctor before giving any to your child.
Bright light therapy
Sometimes, depression in ADHD is caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition where children experience depressive symptoms during the cold winter months. Although exposure to sunlight is still the best treatment for SAD, bright light therapy is an excellent alternative if natural sunlight is not available where you live. Bright light therapy involves sitting close to a set of fluorescent bulbs with eyes open and the lights on. The child should not look directly at the light as this could damage the eyes; rather, the child should engage in normal activities like writing, reading, or eating. The important part is that the head and body face the light so that the child receives enough exposure. Light therapy is offered at clinics, but you can also purchase the equipment for use at home. Besides depression, bright light therapy is also thought to regulate the body clock and reduce sleep disorders, another co-morbid problem of children with ADHD.
Did you know that the food your child eats can also trigger depression? Depressive symptoms can be manifestations of a food allergy, in the same way hyperactivity or lack of focus can be caused by food substances. If your child is already on an ADHD diet, there's a good chance that the depression will go away with the ADHD symptoms if the offending foods have been identified and removed.