Depression in children

Childhood and adolescent depression has increased dramatically in the past several decades. Some blame the sensitivity of children combined with the increased violence and use of video games. Others look to the increased use of drugs and alcohol in the parents that may have genetically affected their children. And others recognize that a theory is a theory until it is proven.

We do know that the average age of depression in children has fallen. During childhood the number of boys and girls are affected almost equally but in adolescence almost twice as many girls as boys are diagnosed which is very close to the adult rate of diagnosis.

Researchers also cant determine with certainty the effect that depression and medication has on the growing brain and mind of the adolescent. They do know that over half of those who have a depressive episode as an adolescent will go on to have another within the next seven years. Research has also shown that adolescents who have a major depression also have an increased risk of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of depression in children are very similar to those of an adult suffering from depression. The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV addition) lists the criteria for adult depression and depression in children as the same. Although the criteria are the same, children often do not have the vocabulary to talk about their feelings and may express them through behavior instead of words. Younger children with depression may act out their depression with phobias, separation anxiety or somatic complaints (body problems).

Depression in children can be observed in some external signs such as looking seriously or vaguely sick. They may be less spontaneous or have less energy for their normal daily activities. Young children may become tearful or irritable spontaneously and become self-destructive. Depression in children in their adolescent years will exhibit academic decline, disruptive behavior and problems with their friends. The adolescents grades will fall, they will drop from their normal after school activities, have sleep disturbances and sometimes you may see aggressive and irritable behavior.

Causes of depression in children have not been conclusively defined. There are factors that are associated with depression in children such as stressful life experiences, inconsistent parenting and a negative view of the world. Depression in children is also associated with a family history of mood disorders the existence of other psychiatric conditions such as recurrent depression. Some feel that children inherit a predisposition to depression and anxiety but environmental triggers are necessary for the first major depression.

Depression in children is diagnosed using interviews of the child, the adult and potentially the teacher. The parents are most likely to report outward signs of depression and the child more aware of the inward signs. The child should also have a recent physical examination to rule out other neurological conditions that may impact the diagnosis or the treatment.

Treatment of depression in childhood doesnt have a cookbook technique. The treatment must be tailored to the history of the family, the needs of the child and the risk vs. benefit of the treatment. Often psychotherapy is tried first and medication is added if there isnt improvement. There are increased risks of suicide thoughts and acts in children and adolescents who are taking antidepressants.

Some children only have one episode of depression but often this is a recurrent condition. Both the family and the child should be educated of the early warning symptoms of depression so that the child can get right back to the doctor when the symptoms begin to come back.

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About Dee Braun

Dee is an Adv. Certified Aromatherapist, Reiki Master, Adv. Color/Crystal Therapist, Herbalist, Dr. of Reflexology and single mom who is dedicated to helping others any way she can. One way she chooses to help is by offering information on the benefits and uses of natural health and healing methods for the well-being of both people and pets. Dee also teaches Aromatherapy, Reflexology and Color/Crystal Therapy at the Alternative Healing Academy

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