Depression in Children and Adolescents (Fact Sheet)
This is an excellent fact sheet from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on Depression in Children and Adolescents
About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.
Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child who shows changes in behavior is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression.
- People believed that children could not get depression. Teens with depression were often dismissed as being moody or difficult.
- It wasn’t known that having depression can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.
- Today’s most commonly used type of antidepressant medications did not exist. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) resulted from the work of the late Nobel Laureate and NIH researcher Julius Axelrod, who defined the action of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in mood disorders.
- We now know that youth who have depression may show signs that are slightly different from the typical adult symptoms of depression. Children who are depressed may complain of feeling sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or caregiver, or worry excessively that a parent may die. Older children and teens may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, or feel misunderstood.
- Findings from NIMH-funded, large-scale effectiveness trials are helping doctors and their patients make better individual treatment decisions. For example, the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) found that combination treatment of medication and psychotherapy works best for most teens with depression.
- The Treatment of SSRI-resistant Depression in Adolescents (TORDIA) study found that teens who did not respond to a first antidepressant medication are more likely to get better if they switch to a treatment that includes both medication and psychotherapy.
- The Treatment of Adolescent Suicide Attempters (TASA) study found that a new treatment approach that includes medication plus a specialized psychotherapy designed specifically to reduce suicidal thinking and behavior may reduce suicide attempts in severely depressed teens.
- Depressed teens with coexisting disorders such as substance abuse problems are less likely to respond to treatment for depression. Studies focusing on conditions that frequently co-occur and how they affect one another may lead to more targeted screening tools and interventions.
- With medication, psychotherapy, or combined treatment, most youth with depression can be effectively treated. Youth are more likely to respond to treatment if they receive it early in the course of their illness.
- Although antidepressants are generally safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has placed a “black box” warning label—the most serious type of warning—on all antidepressant medications. The warning says there is an increased risk of suicidal thinking or attempts in youth taking antidepressants. Youth and young adults should be closely monitored especially during initial weeks of treatment.
- Studies focusing on depression in teens and children are pinpointing factors that appear to influence risk, treatment response, and recovery. Given the chronic nature of depression, effective intervention early in life may help reduce future burden and disability.
- Multi-generational studies have revealed a link between depression that runs in families and changes in brain structure and function, some of which may precede the onset of depression. This research is helping to identify biomarkers and other early indicators that may lead to better treatment or prevention.
- Advanced brain imaging techniques are helping scientists identify specific brain circuits that are involved in depression and yielding new ways to study the effectiveness of treatments.
- Years of basic research are now showing promise for the first new generation of antidepressant medications in 2 decades, with a goal of relieving depression in hours, rather than weeks. Such a potential breakthrough could reduce the rate of suicide, which is consistently one of the leading causes of death for young people. In 2007—the most recent year for which we have statistics—it was the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24.
- Research on novel treatment delivery approaches, such as telemedicine (providing services over satellite, Internet, phone, or other remote connections) and collaborative or team-based care in medical care settings will improve the quality of mental health care for youth.
- Sophisticated gene studies have suggested common roots between depression and possibly other mental disorders. In addition to identifying how and where in the brain illnesses start before symptoms develop, these findings have also encouraged a new way of thinking about and categorizing mental illnesses. In this light, NIMH has embarked on a long-term project—called the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project—aimed at ultimately improving the treatment and prevention of depression by studying the classification of mental illnesses, based on genetics and neuroscience in addition to clinical observation.
Click on link for full article and to download the fact sheet: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml
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10 thoughts on “Depression in Children and Adolescents (NIMH Fact Sheet)”
Reblogged this on Family,Friends and Everything in Between and commented:
Even though Drs, psychologists and researchers have come a long way in diagnosing and helping teens and young adults with depression there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
Hi Kristy, I just noticed your comment. A lot more when it comes to children. Sometimes I think we hold them to higher standards than we hold ourselves. The more speak who speak out, share their experiences, the less stigma–a step in the right direction, I think?
Hi Kristy, I Just noticed your comment. Couldn’t agree with you more! Further, much research have no clinical applications and many are just plain irrelevant or nuanced versions of known facts.
With that said, science is ahead of the practice of medicine, especially in mental health where the connection is often not visible. However, much of medicine is what happens in life–our health outcomes are more directly related to our social and physical environments.
My youngest brought that point home On our drive to NY last night. He made an amazing discovery: He talked about not feeling well and just overly tired. He changed his diet– starting eating Vegetables, Salads, Fruits and less red meat–he also started working out less ( down from 3 hours to 1.5 hours daily). (Him eating vegetables and salad is proof of miraculous change.) Since then he feels better, more energized and less grouchy. 🙂
Good medicine and mental health literally starts at home! After over twenty years of practicing medicine, I am more concerned today about the mental health of children and adults than I have ever been.
My teenage daughter who is 16 is going through a depressed phase right now. I am against her going on medication for it due to the high risks for teens taking anti-depressants. She is also experiencing mild insomnia.
I am planning on writing up a diet for her to include foods that help with depression and insomnia. And now that it is getting warmer out she can exercise more like ride her bike and take walks. Hopefully in the next month or so she will feel much better :).
I too have grown concerned about the mental health in children and adults.
I agree with your plan to look at her nutrition and encourage more exercise However, if your daughter is like my sons, easier said than done! I can’t tell them to do anything! Fortimately, both are athletes.
Teenagers are tricky and very impulsive. I share your concern about medication and I would certainly do my own research and second opinion, if that was suggested.
I believe a good therapist (experienced in behavioral therapy and teenagers) offers the best results along with a balanced diet, Vitamins, exercise/yoga/meditation and support of family and friends.
It’s not an easy decision except in cases of severe depression, where adding medications are a must despite their side effects, the benefits far exceed the risks.
One caveat Kristy: Make sure the diagnosis is correct. For example, insomnia can cause depression.
You can also contact me privately through the contact form…
This fact sheet by the NIMH is very thorough,containing up to date information on our understanding of depression in children.
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