Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by periods of inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors. It’s often diagnosed when you’re young but can persist into your teenage and adult years.

ADHD can impact many parts of your life, such as social interactions and performance at school or work. Impulsivity linked to ADHD can also turn into risky behaviors.

There’s also some research that indicates people with ADHD may also be at an increased risk of attempting and completing suicide. Read on to look at what we know about this topic so far.

Suicide results from self-injury that’s intended to be fatal. It’s a major mental health concern in the United States.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 47,500 people in the United States died of suicide in 2019. After unintentional injury, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 34 during the same year.

Research has linked ADHD to an increased suicide risk. The reason for this link is unknown — but factors such as other co-occurring mental health conditions and the effects of ADHD on a person’s life may play a role.

ADHD is associated with increased suicide risk

A 2017 research review collected data from 26 research studies concerning suicide and ADHD. The reviewers found that there was evidence supporting an association between ADHD and suicide. This effect was seen in all age groups studied.

A 2020 research review studied the long-term risk of suicide in children and teens with ADHD. Almost all of the included studies found an association between ADHD and suicidal behavior or suicide attempts.

Other factors may also be important

Having ADHD is associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors, and certain other factors may increase this risk further.

Researchers found that a history of depression or anxiety can significantly influence suicide risk levels in people with ADHD, along with factors such as:

A 2019 study also found that having depression or anxiety increased the risk of suicide in children with ADHD. The structure of a child’s family (called “family function” in the study) was found to play an important role, too.

And a 2021 study of people with ADHD found that ADHD symptoms were only associated with attempted suicide when a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, was also present.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:

Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

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There are three types of ADHD:

  • inattentive type
  • hyperactive-impulsive type
  • combination type

A 2021 study looked suicidal behaviors in 5,693 university students in China. The researchers found that having either inattentive or combination type ADHD was strongly associated with suicidal behaviors, such as

  • suicidal ideation
  • suicide plans
  • suicide attempts

ADHD symptoms can be divided into two different categories: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Let’s explore each in a little more detail below.


Inattention means that a person with ADHD has trouble focusing on tasks or staying organized.

People experiencing inattention may find it hard to maintain attention and may become easily distracted from what they’re doing. They can have trouble planning or following through with various tasks or activities.


Hyperactivity may look like constant activity and can happen to varying degrees. For example, it can show up as restlessness or fidgeting, such as when a person gets up and moves around at inappropriate times.

Impulsivity is usually seen as a perceived lack of self-control or acting first without thinking things through. Someone experiencing impulsivity may make and act on a decision without thinking about the potential long-term effects of that decision or the impact it may have on those involved.

Whether you have ADHD or not, it’s important to know the symptoms of a mental health emergency.

Contact 911 or local emergency services immediately, or help someone else to contact them, if you or someone you’re close to is:

  • thinking or talking about death or wanting to die
  • having feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or intense emotional pain
  • experiencing feelings of:
    • having no way out of the current situation
    • being a burden to others
    • not having a reason to live
  • withdrawing or isolating from loved ones
  • sleeping either too much or too little
  • experiencing intense shifts in mood
  • taking increased risks, such as using drugs or alcohol more often or driving recklessly or too fast
  • giving away cherished possessions or saying goodbye to loved ones
  • searching for a way to attempt suicide or making a plan for suicide

To help someone who may be considering self-harm or suicide:

  • Ask if they’re considering hurting themselves or others.
  • Keep them safe by reducing or removing access to lethal items or places.
  • Be there. Listen. Acknowledge their pain and feelings.
  • Encourage them to reach out. They can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • Stay in touch and follow up with them after the emergency.
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Whether you have ADHD, depression, or both, there are several treatment options available to you.

ADHD treatment

Treatment options for ADHD can include:

  • Medications. Medications for ADHD can help to lower hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms. Keep in mind that different medications or dosages may need to be tried before you find one that works for you.
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is also called “talk therapy.” Some types of psychotherapy that may be beneficial for people with ADHD include behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and family therapy.
  • Lifestyle changes. Try organizing tasks or events by using a list or a calendar, using reminder notes, or setting up a well-defined routine when necessary.

Depression treatment

The treatment for depression involves options similar to those for the treatment of ADHD, including:

  • Medications. A variety of medications may be used to treat depression. The most common type are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is also used for depression. CBT can be especially beneficial for depression.
  • Lifestyle changes. Staying active and socially engaged can help with depression.

People younger than 25 years old may experience more suicidal ideation or behavior when taking antidepressants. Carefully monitor changes in your thoughts and behaviors or ask someone close to you to help monitor these changes, especially when first starting on antidepressants or after adjusting the dosage.

First, get treatment for your ADHD. Research has suggested that ADHD medications, specifically stimulant medications, are associated with a lower risk of attempted suicide in people with ADHD.

Talk with a doctor if your current treatments aren’t helping you manage your ADHD symptoms. Making adjustments to your treatment plan may help.

Here are some other ways to help prevent depression and suicidal ideation:

  • Create a support network. Build up and maintain a strong support network made up of trusted friends, family members, and members of your community.
  • Ask for help. Reach out to and confide in your support network when negative feelings begin to creep in. Let them know what you’re feeling and how they can help you.
  • Foster a positive attitude. Focus on your best qualities and strengths as well as the things that you find worth living for and experiencing.
  • Stay active. Engage in exercise or other activities that you really enjoy to help to lift your mood when you need it.
  • Maintain your overall health. Take steps to improve your overall health by:
    • managing any other conditions that may be affecting your physical or mental health

Depression or suicidal ideation should never be ignored. Find help immediately if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a mental health emergency.

This can involve reaching out to someone within your support network to confide in. Make sure you have the contact information for members of your support network on hand in case you need to reach out.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. All calls are kept confidential.

If a situation is an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Research has linked ADHD to an increased risk of suicide.

There are some factors that may play a role, including the impact that ADHD symptoms can have on a person’s quality of life. Other co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety may also be involved.

Never ignore symptoms of depression or suicidal ideation. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health emergency, it’s important to get help immediately.

If you have immediate thoughts of harming yourself or others:

  • Ask someone to stay with you until help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons and substances from your surroundings that could cause harm.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to 741741.
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