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Childhood Depression

How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated In Children?

Children with severe bipolar disorder-like symptoms are often treated with psychotherapy and a combination of medicines. The medications usually include a mood stabilizing medicine (such as lamotrigine or lithium) sometimes in combination with an antidepressant.

Antidepressants need to be used with caution in children with suspected bipolar disorder because they have a small but significant risk for triggering mania (elation or hyperactive behavior).

What's the Long-Term Outlook for Childhood Depression?

Studies have found that first-time episodes of childhood depression occur at younger ages than previously thought. And, as in adults, depression may reoccur later in life.

Depression often occurs at the same time as other physical illnesses. Because studies have shown that depression may precede more serious mental illness later in life, diagnosis, early treatment, and close monitoring are crucial.

Childhood Depression: Warning Signs of Suicide?

Parents should be particularly vigilant for signs that may indicate that a child with depression is at risk for suicide. Warning signs of suicidal behavior in children include:

  • A focus on morbid and negative themes
  • Frequent accidents
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increased acting-out behaviors
  • Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Many depressive symptoms (changes in eating, sleeping, or activities)
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Talking about death and dying
  • Talking about suicide or feeling hopeless or helpless

Can Childhood Depression Go Away Without Treatment?

Childhood depression tends to come and go in episodes. There can be spontaneous recovery from childhood depression. However, once a child has one bout of childhood depression, he or she is more likely to get depressed again. Without treatment for childhood depression, the consequences of depression can be extremely serious, even deadly.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on May 10, 2014
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