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Major Depression

Overview of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that involves a child's body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect and disrupt eating, sleeping, or thinking patterns, and is not the same as being unhappy or in a "blue" mood, nor is it a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. Children with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Treatment is often necessary and many times crucial to recovery.

There are three primary types of depression, including major depression (clinical depression); bipolar disorder (manic depression); and dysthymic disorder (dysthymia).

What is major depression?

Major depression, also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, is classified as a type of affective disorder (also called mood disorder) that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, and has become a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

Who is affected by major depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, reports the following:

What are the risk factors for major depression?

The following are the most common risk factors for major depression:

What are the symptoms of major depression?

The following are the most common symptoms of major depression. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

For a diagnosis of major depression to be made, a child often needs to exhibit a "cluster" (several) of the above symptoms during the same two-week period. The symptoms of major depression may resemble other problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is major depression diagnosed?

Because depression has shown to often co-exist with other psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety disorders, seeking early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to the recovery of your child.

A child psychiatrist or other mental health professional usually diagnoses major depression following a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. An evaluation of the child's family, when possible, in addition to information provided by teachers and care providers may also be helpful in making a diagnosis.

Treatment for major depression:

Specific treatment for major depression will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Mood disorders, including major depression, can often be effectively treated. Treatment should always be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the child and family. Treatment may include one, or more, of the following:

Parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.

For several reasons, many parents of children or adolescents with depression never seek the appropriate treatment for their child, although many people with major depression who seek treatment improve - usually within weeks. Continued treatment may help to prevent reoccurrence of the depressive symptoms.

Without appropriate treatment, symptoms of depression can persist for weeks, months, or years. In addition to causing interpersonal and psychosocial problems, depression in children and adolescents is also associated with an increased risk for suicide. Further, this risk rises, particularly among adolescent boys, when the depression is accompanied by other mental health disorders (i.e., conduct disorder, substance abuse). It is crucial for parents and care providers of children and adolescents to take all depressive and suicidal symptoms very seriously and seek treatment immediately. Suicide is a medical emergency. Consult your child's physician for more information.

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Online Resources of Child & Adolescent Mental Health


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