Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Depression is a medical condition that leads to intense feelings of sadness or despair. These feelings don’t go away on their own. They are not necessarily related to a particular life event.
What is going on in the body?
Depression is a disorder of the brain. Researchers believe that chemicals called neurotransmitters are involved in depression. Nerve impulses cause the release of neurotransmitters from one nerve cell, or neuron, to the next. This release allows cells to communicate with one another. Too little or too much of these important neurotransmitters may be released and cause or contribute to depression. Some of the neurotransmitters believed to be linked to depression are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
There are many theories about what causes depression. Depression may be caused by any of these things:
Following are some common risk factors for depression in children:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Some symptoms are common in people of all ages with depression. These symptoms include the following:
Children with depression may have the following additional symptoms:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
The Children’s Depression Inventory, also called CDI 18, may be used to screen a child for depression. A child who screens positively should have a comprehensive evaluation for depression. The evaluation may include a history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Depression may not be preventable. Some steps that may be helpful in preventing depression include the following:
Depression can lead to suicide. It is important to recognize and treat the condition early. Children should be encouraged to talk to someone if they are concerned about depression. There are many people they can talk to including the following:
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Most children recover well from a single episode of depression. However, episodes are likely to recur. Children with depression are at risk for further episodes of depression later in life. They are also at risk for adult personality disorders. Children with depression are more likely to commit suicide than other children.
What are the risks to others?
Depression is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
The two most common ways of treating depression in children are with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Often a combination is used. Occasionally a person must be hospitalized for intense treatment or for his or her own safety.
Antidepressant medications are effective in the following ways:
A class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can be used in children. Some common SSRIs include fluoxetine and paroxetine.
Psychotherapy can help children:
Treatment of depression in a child should involve the family as well as the individual.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Antidepressants may cause mild and usually temporary side effects in some people. The most common side effects are as follows:
What happens after treatment for the condition?
An episode of depression in a child usually responds to treatment with medication and psychotherapy. The child can help prevent relapses by living a healthy lifestyle. Following are some important parts of a healthy lifestyle:
How is the condition monitored?
Once a child has an episode of depression, he or she is at higher risk for further episodes. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider. The provider may recommend regular visits to monitor symptoms. The provider may also order blood tests to monitor the levels of medications.
Article type: xmedgeneral