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Depression in Children and Teens - Treatment Overview

The sooner treatment begins for depression, the sooner your child is likely to recover. Waiting to seek treatment for depression may mean a longer and more difficult recovery.

Treatment typically includes professional counseling, medicines, and education about depression for your child and your family.

Home treatment is an important part of treating depression. It includes regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.

Counseling

Professional counseling for depression includes several types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy. For more information about counseling, see Other Treatment.

Medicines

Medicines used to treat childhood depression include several types of drugs called antidepressants.

An important part of treatment is making sure that your child takes medicines as prescribed. Often people who feel better after taking an antidepressant for a period of time may feel like they are "cured" and no longer need treatment. But when medicine is stopped too early, symptoms usually return. So it is important that your child follows the treatment plan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide

Before prescribing medicine, your doctor will check your child for possible suicidal thoughts by asking a few questions. See a list of questions your doctor may ask your child.

Education

Education of your child and family members can be provided by a doctor either informally or in family therapy. Some of the most important things that your child and family members can learn include:

  • Knowing how to make sure a child is following a treatment plan, such as taking medicine correctly and going to counseling appointments.
  • Learning ways to reduce stress caused by living with someone who has depression.
  • Knowing the signs of a relapse and what to do to prevent depression from recurring.
  • Knowing the signs of suicidal behavior, how to evaluate their seriousness, and how to respond.
  • Learning how to identify signs of a manic episode, which is a bout of extremely high mood and energy, or irritability that is a sign of bipolar disorder.
  • Seeking treatment if you are a parent with depression. If a parent's depression goes untreated, it may interfere with the recovery of the child.
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