Talk Therapy May Help Depressed Teens Who Shun Antidepressants

(HealthDay News) — Depressed teens who refuse antidepressants may benefit from counseling, a new study suggests.The study included more than 200 teens who were unwilling to take medication to treat their depression. The researchers found that those who tried a type of short-term “talk therapy” — known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — were more likely to recover than those who didn’t.”High numbers of adolescents experience depression, as many as 10 to 15 percent each year — and up to one in five by age 18,” said lead researcher Greg Clarke. He is a depression investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.”Unfortunately, most of these depressed teens are not treated. As few as 30 percent get specific depression care,” he said.In many cases, depressed teens refuse to take antidepressants, “often because of side effect concerns,” Clarke said. These include warnings going back to 2004 about suicidal thoughts and behavior related to antidepressant use, the researchers said. Other common side effects from antidepressants include weight gain and fatigue.”Offering brief cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective alternative,” Clarke said. The small to moderate benefits found in this trial may be tied to reduced need for psychiatric hospitalization, the researchers noted.

Source: Talk Therapy May Help Depressed Teens Who Shun Antidepressants

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Depression in Preschool Changes the Brain, Study Shows

A new study adds to growing evidence that depression can affect even very young children.

Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken seriously. Now, it’s becoming clear that kids as young as three can have major depression. That’s due largely to the work of Dr. Joan Luby, the director of the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who is credited with spurring the small but growing body of evidence that preschoolers can experience depression and be successfully treated.

Read on: Depression in Preschool Changes the Brain, Study Shows

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Parents ‘In Denial’ About Teens’ Depression and Anxiety

Parents are in the dark when it comes to dealing with their teens’ anxiety and depression, finds an exclusive new survey conducted by Yahoo Parenting and Silver Hill, a non-profit hospital for the treatment of psychiatric and addictive disorders.

“Everybody is in denial about depression and anxiety,” Aaron Krasner, MD, the adolescent transitional living service chief at Silver Hill, in New Canaan, Conn., tells Yahoo Parenting. “So it makes sense to me that until the sh-t is really hitting the fan, parents and kids aren’t interested in talking about these problems. In some ways, parents don’t want to know and would rather do anything than acknowledge that their kid has a problem.”
Source: Parents ‘In Denial’ About Teens’ Depression and Anxiety

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Depression in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


Image: Deborah 1963A few years ago, my mother unearthed some pictures of me as a baby which I had never seen before. One showed me at about eight months old, crawling on the grass of Golden Gate Park. I was looking directly at the camera, my tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth, and I was laughing. My face was lit from within, and looked happy, confident and even a little mischievous.

I was absolutely transfixed by that photograph for days. I would continually take it out of my wallet and stare at it, torn between laughter and tears. For a while I couldn’t figure out what it was about the picture that drew me. Finally it hit me; this was the only picture of myself as a child that I had seen which showed me laughing. All the photos I had ever seen depicted a child staring solemnly or smiling diffidently, but never laughing. I looked at the Golden Gate Park picture and wished that I had remained that happy, and that depression had not taken away my childhood.

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10 Ways to Help When Your Child is Depressed

Image: Calm Morning by Frank Weston Benson
Calm Morning by Frank Weston Benson

Being a parent is rewarding, but tough. One of the hardest things to deal with is your child’s pain. If your child is depressed, you probably are scared and feel helpless. There are some ways in which you can help your child, though.

1. Recognize that clinical depression is a disease.

Internalizing this fact will help your child in two ways. One, it will hopefully keep you from blaming yourself or your child. This is no one’s fault. Second, if you think of depression as a disease instead of a choice your child is making, you won’t say anything thoughtless like, “Why don’t you just pull yourself together,” or “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

2. Don’t freak out.

This will definitely not help your child. Clinical depression can be successfully treated more than 80% of the time. As long as your child has a good doctor and supportive parents, he or she has a very good chance of recovering. Notice that last part – while everyone with depression really needs a good doctor, supportive parents are absolutely critical for a child with depression.

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Diagnosing and Treating Dysthymia in Children: When Depression is Chronic at an Early Age

Image: Boys in the Pasture by Winslow Homer
Boys in the Pasture by Winslow Homer

When I was finally diagnosed with depression at age 27, after twenty years of suffering from one type of depressive disorder or another, it was because I was going through a major depression at that particular time. It was only the third major depression I had experienced, and all three had occurred after the age of twenty. For all their ferocity, however, I don’t feel that the major depressions did the most damage to my social life, the direction my life took and my psyche. Without question, that honor is reserved for the dysthymia that had been a part of my life, and a part of me, since I was seven.

A few years ago, my mother found a picture of me as a baby crawling on the grass. For days, I couldn’t figure out what was so odd about the picture. It finally dawned on me that I was grinning in it, and with the exception of school pictures, I had never seen a photo of myself with anything more than a tentative half-smile. For the most part I looked serious, detached and sometimes, sad.

The psychiatrist who first told me, “I believe that you’re suffering from depression” might have been a bit surprised at how relieved I was. But for me, the diagnosis was a relief. I had known most of my life that something was wrong with me. I was thrilled that this something had a name and could be treated.

My psychiatrist felt it was clear that I had been suffering from depression, in one form or another, since I was a child. It may seem hard to believe that someone could go undiagnosed for so many years, but there were a couple of factors at work. The first was that I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. No one believed back then that children could suffer from depression. My parents did know that something was wrong with me, but they had no idea what it was or what to do. More importantly, however, my depression went unnoticed because I suffered from dysthymic disorder, not major depression.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) and Dysthymic Disorder (more commonly known as dysthymia) do have a lot in common. Both are marked by a low mood, low self-esteem, fatigue or low energy, indecisiveness and hopelessness. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) “Dysthymic Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder are differentiated based on severity, chronicity and persistence.“

In other words, MDD and dysthymia are like rain storms. Both of them drop water from the sky. But if major depression is like a violent thunderstorm, like a thunderstorm it usually passes fairly quickly (although it may seem like an eternity). Dysthymic disorder is like a steady drizzle under a gray sky that goes on and on for days.

Dysthymia is considered early onset dysthymic disorder (EODD) when the symptoms begin before the age of 21. Unfortunately, EODD can be very tricky to spot. After all, if a child has had EODD from an early age, before her personality has been fully formed, how does she (or her parents) know that she suffers from a depressive disorder?

But diagnosis and treatment of EODD is absolutely essential. A child who grows up under the influence of a depressive disorder is going to be at a tremendous disadvantage, not to mention how miserable his childhood is going to be.

Even if I had suffered from major depressions during my childhood, they would not have as much damage as the dysthymia. The drizzle and gray sky that went on day after day, eroding my sense of self and keeping me from being anything other than a spectator in life, was the real devastating force. And under that gray sky I made a lot of important decisions that set me on certain paths: what interests to develop, what type of friends to choose, how to prioritize school and play, where to go to college, what to study in college and who to date. Without question, many of those decisions would have been different if I didn’t have EODD.

Don’t just assume that your child is negative, apathetic, anti-social and lacking in ambition. It’s possible that EODD has been a part of his life so long that the symptoms have woven themselves into your (and their) perception of his personality. If your child has been exhibiting any of the symptoms of depression, even in a milder form, it is crucial that you consult a professional.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in Children

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt

Did you know that children can suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I’m embarrassed to admit that I just found this out recently, after years of writing about mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that can cause depression, fatigue and overeating, among other things, and it is brought on by the change of seasons. According to Winter Blues by Normal Rosenthal, M.D., a survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that about three percent of children suffer from SAD, with a greater incidence occurring in the last three years of high school.

I’m surprised that it hadn’t occurred to me before. After all, if children could have clinical depression and other depressive disorders, why not SAD? Apparently even animals can suffer from SAD. Of course, it’s worth nothing that all creatures on earth have a tendency toward SAD symptoms in the winter, but when normal functioning starts being impaired, it’s time to take a closer look.

So, is there a chance that a child you know has Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, if he starts off the school year doing well, but his grades start dropping after the holidays, it’s possible. If she bounces out of bed after eight to ten hours of sleep in the summer but can barely drag herself out of bed after more than twelve hours of sleep in the winter, it’s worth looking into.

SAD in children can go undiagnosed fairly easily, especially in adolescents, who are expected to be moody and have trouble getting out of bed. A few seasons may need to pass before anyone notices a seasonal pattern in behavior.

Symptoms of SAD in Children

  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Anxiety
  • A drop in energy level
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of social situations

As with diagnosing SAD in an adult, the single biggest clue is whether the symptoms are seasonal.

It’s important that your child be evaluated by a qualified professional. If you think that your child has SAD, chances are good that your instincts are correct. But she still needs to see a doctor and have other possibilities eliminated first, and any treatment should be under a doctor’s care, even if the treatment is purely non-drug.


As with adults, the most popular, and generally most effective, treatment for SAD is light therapy. As simple as it sounds, there are many do’s and dont’s to light therapy, which you need to be aware of in order to get the most out of it. This is one reason that your child should be treated by a doctor for SAD. Other treatments for SAD include psychotherapy and antidepressants, but in general light treatment is the first line of defense.

Here are some other ways to help your child combat Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Make sure your child eats a balanced diet. This is always important, of course, but more so when SAD brings on a craving for simple carbohydrates. In children, this can mean cravings for candy beyond the norm. Keep candy out of the house and make sure there are some sweet healthy snacks available, like fruit or low-fat granola.
  • Dawn simulation may help your child get out of bed more easily in the morning.
  • Increase the amount of sunlight your child gets wherever possible. Ask her teacher to move her seat next to the window, if she’s seated anywhere else. Encourage her to participate in outdoor winter sports or take walks outside when it’s sunny.
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