Many young adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at risk for depression. Yet, questions remain about factors associated with the development of depression in young adults with ADHD. This study examined the effects of sex and emotion regulation difficulties on depression in a sample of young adults with (n = 172) and without (n = 730) ADHD. Two aspects of emotion regulation difficulties were examined—impairments in emotional insight (i.e., lack of emotional awareness, nonacceptance of emotion, and lack of emotional clarity) and impairments in behavioral response to emotion (i.e., impulse control difficulties, difficulties engaging in goal-directed behavior, and limited access to emotion regulation strategies). Significant correlations between ADHD and all indices of emotion regulation difficulty emerged. Sex moderated the association between ADHD and lack of emotional awareness, difficulties engaging in goal-directed behavior, and limited access to emotion regulation strategies. Specifically, ADHD was significantly associated with limited emotion regulation awareness for women but not men, while ADHD was associated with greater difficulties engaging in goal-directed behavior and limited access to emotion regulation strategies for women compared to men. These three areas of emotion regulation dysfunction simultaneously mediated the association between ADHD and depression. The findings indicate the importance of considering emotion regulation and sex in understanding depression in young adults with ADHD.
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