Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a mood disorder, but it can make it more difficult to regulate emotions. It can also have indirect effects on mental health. For example, some people with ADHD may develop low self-confidence about their abilities due to how they or others perceive the condition.

However, unlike a mood disorder, pervasive mood changes are not the main characteristic of ADHD. Not everyone with the condition will experience negative effects on their mood.

The key feature of any mood disorder is persistent mood alterations. Some examples of mood disorders include:

Read on to learn more about ADHD and mood.

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) defines mood as a pervasive feeling that affects most of a person’s behavior.

It is typical for mood to change according to things that happen in a person’s life. But in mood disorders, someone’s mood changes in ways that are unpredictable or that have a negative effect on their well-being. For example, a person with depression may feel persistently down, hopeless, or worthless.

ADHD is not a mood disorder. While the experience of having the condition may cause strong emotions, it does not typically affect mood in an ongoing, pervasive way. As a result, mood changes are not a part of the diagnostic criteria.

That said, it is possible for people to have both ADHD and a mood disorder at the same time.

No, ADHD is not a personality disorder. Personality disorders are chronic patterns of behavior that affect a person’s mood, relationships, and way of thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic personality disorder has a pattern of self-centered, self-aggrandizing behavior that disregards the needs and feelings of others. People with this condition tend to view themselves as more important than others.

In contrast, ADHD does not directly affect how a person sees themselves or others. People with the condition can share some similar traits, such as difficulty with organization or hyperactivity. However, outside of their symptoms, people with ADHD have diverse personalities.

While ADHD is not a mood disorder, it can make it more difficult for a person to regulate their emotions. This means it is harder to recognize and manage feelings, whether positive or negative.

A person with ADHD may have strong emotions that arise quickly and may lead to impulsive behavior. For example, a child who has difficulties paying attention in school may experience frustration or anger at themselves or others. This may cause an impulse to scribble out their work or leave the class.

From the outside, this difficulty in managing feelings may look like a mood disorder, but it is different. These feelings are ones that any person might experience in the same situation. People with ADHD may find them more difficult to moderate.

The experience of having ADHD itself can also affect a person’s emotions. Depending on the situation, the condition’s symptoms may sometimes make a person feel:

  • frustrated
  • angry
  • confused
  • embarrassed
  • excited
  • inspired
  • energetic

Learn more about ADHD “superpowers.”

The rate of mental health disorders in people with ADHD is high. Previous research has found that among adults with ADHD:

  • between 18.6% and 53.3% have depression
  • around 50% have an anxiety disorder
  • between 9.5% to 21.1% have bipolar disorder

There is not much research on the prevalence of personality disorders in people with ADHD. However, some reports suggest that around half of adults with this condition have a personality disorder.

However, this figure comes from an older and relatively small 2012 study with only 67 participants. Additionally, many people with ADHD do not have a diagnosis, particularly girls and adults, so this finding may not represent the true prevalence.

Why are mental health disorders more common in people with ADHD?

Environmental factors are one of the potential reasons why the prevalence of mental health conditions is high in people with ADHD.

Emotional dysregulation, impulsive behavior, and inattentiveness may affect relationships, school performance, and experiences at work. Over time, these negative experiences may cause stress, which can contribute to mental illness.

A lack of understanding and empathy from others can also have an effect. A 2022 article notes that adults often label children with ADHD as “troublemakers.” This may lead to people feeling misunderstood or having low self-esteem.

However, this is not the only theory. Some other potential explanations for the link include:

  • Stress, trauma, and abuse: Negative life experiences, especially in childhood, are risk factors for mood disorders. Traumatic experiences may also be a risk factor for ADHD, as both ADHD and post-traumatic stress disorder are highly comorbid, but research has not proven this.
  • Family history: Research consistently finds strong evidence that mental health disorders run in families. This may be due to genetic factors but could also be because of similar environments. Environmental factors may also change how genes behave, triggering or increasing the risk of ADHD, mental health conditions, or both.
  • Brain chemistry and activity: People with ADHD may have deficits in the “reward centers” of the brain, especially in their ability to experience motivation and reward. This may also decrease their ability to feel pleasure, leading to depression and other mental health conditions.

ADHD is not a progressive condition — it does not have stages or directly lead to other conditions.

However, scientists are unsure if changes in the brain that ADHD causes may also increase the risk for mood and personality disorders.

This does not mean everyone with ADHD will develop a mood or personality disorder. It may be that both simply share similar risk factors. It is also worth noting that people with ADHD can receive incorrect diagnoses, as doctors can be more familiar with mental health symptoms than ADHD.

Both ADHD and mental health conditions are treatable. The right combination of therapy, lifestyle changes, support, and medication can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

However, treatment for ADHD will not treat coexisting mental health conditions, so if a person believes they may have both, they may need additional medical care. A doctor can refer a person to the right treatment.

Some people find support from in-person or online support groups. These groups may offer resources, tips, and strategies for living with ADHD.

People with mental health conditions are generally eligible for reasonable accommodations at work and school. These measures may reduce stress and give people a fair opportunity to succeed.

ADHD is not a mood disorder or a personality disorder. Mood disorders mainly affect a person’s mood, causing persistent or unpredictable changes in mood that negatively affect their life. Personality disorders affect how a person thinks, behaves, and treats others.

In contrast, the main features of ADHD are difficulty focusing and hyperactivity. People can experience negative emotions because of this, which may contribute to mental health conditions. However, this is secondary to the condition, rather than part of it.

People with ADHD can also have more difficulty regulating their emotions, which may look like a mood disorder from the outside. If someone has concerns, they can speak with a doctor for help.