How Do Doctors Diagnose Childhood Depression?
If your child has symptoms of depression that have lasted for at least two weeks, you should schedule a visit with his or her health care provider. You will want to make sure that there are no physical reasons for the symptoms. You'll also want to make sure that your child receives proper treatment.
A consultation with a mental health professional that specializes in treating kids with childhood depression is also recommended.
A mental health evaluation for childhood depression should include interviews with you and your child. In addition, psychological testing may be helpful for clarifying the diagnosis and making treatment recommendations. Information from teachers, friends, and classmates can be useful for showing that the symptoms of childhood depression are present during your child's various activities and are a marked change from previous behavior.
There are no specific tests -- medical or psychological -- that can clearly show childhood depression. But tools such as questionnaires (for both the child and parents) and interviews by a mental health professional that include taking a careful history can help to make an accurate diagnosis.
How Is Childhood Depression Treated?
Treatment options for kids with childhood depression are similar to those for adults. They include psychotherapy (counseling) and medication. Your child's doctor may suggest psychotherapy first and consider antidepressant medicine as an additional option if symptoms are severe or if there is no significant improvement with psychotherapy alone.
The best studies to date indicate that a combination of psychotherapy and medication is the most effective method to successfully treat childhood depression.
The FDA warns that antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.
Does Medicine Work for Childhood Depression?
Yes. A large number of research trials have shown the effectiveness of depression medications in relieving the symptoms of childhood depression. One study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, reviewed different approaches to treating adolescents with moderate to severe depression and found that 71% of the adolescents who received combination treatment with the antidepressant medication Prozac and psychotherapy had fewer symptoms. In addition, more than 60% of the kids who took Prozac alone improved.