Treating Childhood Depression

April 21, 2016

There are behavioral components to each psychological disorder like depression and others.

Children that have depression have less enthusiasm and a lack of energy. They can be irritable, withdrawn, and they may sulk. These children also feel restless, anxious, and have sadness. Children may do poorly in school or lose interest in activities that they enjoyed before.

Many parents feel that medication is the answer for a depression-related problem, but this isn’t the case. The FDA hasn’t approved and drugs for the sole treatment of “behavior problems.” When any drug is FDA approved for depression either for adult or children, it’s to treat the actually illness and not the behaviors that may come with it.

Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products, Mitchell Mathis, M.D., is a psychiatrist and says that there are many parts to mental illness. Drug companies look at the symptoms and this is what parents worry about. The FDA doesn’t look at just one part of the illness.

The Treatment of Depression

A professional diagnosis is the first step to treating and type of depression. Many children that are grouchy, moody, or feel misunderstood don’t have depression and don’t need any type of drug.

There is only about 11% of adolescents that have depression by the age of 18 says the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Before puberty, both boys and girls have the same incidents of depression. Once adolescence is over, girls are twice likely to have depression when compared to boys and it continues to menopause. This is once clue that depression might be hormonal in nature, but scientists don’t know how hormones impact the brain exactly according to Acting Deputy Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products, Tiffany R. Farchione, M.D.

It’s difficult to tell if the child is just having a difficult time, or is actually depressed. Symptoms and signs of depression change and the child grows and the brain develops. It takes time to get a diagnosis because the doctor can only get a snapshot of what is going on with the child.

When you look at psychiatry, it’s easier to treat adults because you have more history with an adult and you can draw information from the patterns. When you look at children you have less information you can draw from. There’s usually other reasons that are looked at because we don’t want to label the child with some type lifetime disorder. We look at the severity of the issue before any type of medication is given.

The Need for Proper Care

The next step is to work on a treatment for the condition. The severity of the illness will be a factor as to what treatments are going to be used. Medication and psychotherapy are often used and the FDA has approved two drugs which are escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac) to treat depression in young people. Children age 8 and older are approved for Prozac and for children aged 12 and older, Lexapro is approved.

There needs to be more pediatric studies as antidepressants that are approved for adults haven’t been approved for use with children. If there’s a treatment that has bene shown to work on children it leads to optimism because there aren’t a lot of treatments available currently.

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