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Depression: Is Your Child Depressed?

Depression in children can have dire lifelong consequences. Do you know the signs?

Depression in Children Has Lifelong Repercussions continued...

And those with a history of adolescent depression were twice as likely to have an episode of depression as an adult compared to a person who had no past or current history of a psychiatric condition.

The study's most disturbing finding was a high rate of suicide attempts and deaths. There were no suicide deaths among those who were not depressed in adolescence, while 7% of those who were depressed as kids killed themselves, and 34% attempted suicide.

This is not an isolated statistic. It's well known that depressed children are at high risk for suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds in the U. S.

Depression is dangerous territory. Having entered it, kids need every bit of help they can get to survive and find their way out.

Depression in Children: Symptoms and Treatment

Parents can help children through the maze of depression by looking for and recognizing the symptoms of depression in kids. Symptoms include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Changes in appetite -- either increased or decreased
  • Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Vocal outbursts or crying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • FatigueFatigue and low energy
  • Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

The seriousness of these symptoms only underscores the importance of treatment such as antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy sessions, or both.

"In my experience, almost all kids with depression benefit from individual therapy," Fassler says. "By the time kids get help there are often secondary effects of the depression," such as a low self-esteem and bad relationships with family and peers. "Kids need help working those through. Medication doesn't fix those problems," Fassler says.

Antidepressants and the FDA's Black Box

There was always a quiet debate about the pros and cons of treating children with antidepressants, but in 2004 the FDA cranked up the volume when it put a strong warning on antidepressant drug labels. The "black box" warning says that antidepressants have been shown to increase suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents, and should be used with caution.

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