Friday, November 27, 2009

Preventing Depression in Children and Adolescents

Preventing Depression in Children and Adolescents

The symptoms of depression are likely to show themselves in different ways, depending upon the age of the child.

Infants may show listlessness, social unresponsiveness, and slowed physical development. Children up to about 2 yrs. of age are more likely to show little curiosity and interest in play. They may be clingy, fearful, have nightmares and night terrors and show an increase in oppositional and uncooperative behavior.

Between three and five years of age children may show sadness, tiredness, slow movement poor appetite and weight loss. They may also show withdrawal, apathy, irritability and anger. Some children may begin to express thoughts of suicide.

From 6 to 12 years depressed behavior begins to look more similar to that of adults. They may express their depressed feelings as well as suicidal thoughts. They may have difficulty feeling pleasure and show signs of low self-esteem, apathy, withdrawal, and low motivation. Poor school performance is common as are physical complaints, oppositional behavior, social problems, and delinquency

Pre-adolescents and adolescents ages 12-18 years are more likely to “act-out” their depression. They may show volatile moods, rage, various forms of delinquency, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, suicidal thinking, self-abuse, and over-eating and sleeping. There may be guilt and feelings of worthlessness and the inability to concentrate and make decisions. School under achievement and suicidal thinking are also common.

It is estimated that 2-4% of our children under 17 yrs. Suffer from a major depression and the percent for teens is about 7%. There is no apparent difference in depression rates between boys and girls until about 11 years of age. After this time girls are twice as likely to be depressed as boys.

Causes of Depression

There are many causes of childhood depression. Genetics and changes in brain chemistry appear to play a role as does child abuse, abandonment, divorce, and loss of a loved ones to death or divorce. Other factors that are traumatic or negative life events can also be involved, such as rejection by significant others, imitation of significant depression in others, learning to be helpless, and the loss of rewarding people, things, and conditions. The factors that cause child and adolescent depression are similar to those that cause adult depression. Depression may go undetected by others until they intensify and are identified later in adult years. Frequently, adults will admit that they do not remember a time when they were not depressed. This is regrettable, because depression can severely limit ones success throughout life.

Depression can be improved or cured

A 16-year-old adolescent was brought to a therapist because he was flunking his tenth grade classes and was “into” Goth dress, literature, music and friends. He had ceased communicating with most people, stayed in his room at home, and was found to be using marijuana and cigarets. The teen would not communicate with the therapist. As a result of the various dangers involved in this case, the parents were advised to enter their son in an adolescent treatment center for psychological assessment, intensive individual and group counseling and substance abuse treatment. A psychiatrist prescribed antidepressant medication and after about two weeks he was discharged to his parents care and returned to his psychologist for further out-patient family and individual counseling. The teen’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors gradually improved greatly in all ways.

It is important to review the known causes of Depression because in doing so we are in a better position to prevent, catch early and effectively treat depression in ourselves and our loved ones. If depression appears to be a problem in your children, schedule a visit with your family physician and also consider a a careful evaluation by a psychologist. Depression is a very treatable problem and it can often be cured.

An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Dr. Tom

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