Childhood depression

Depression is not always manifest in children as dejection;
depending on age, the dominant features may be weeping, irritability or defiance, according to Professor Claudia Mehler-Wex and Dr Michael Kolch of Ulm University.

Depressed infants often scream, are restless and have weeping attacks for no clear reason. Preschool children may behave irritably and aggressively, while schoolchildren may be listless and apathetic. The symptoms in adolescents are similar to those in adults.
It is thought that up to 3.5% of children and 9% of adolescents in industrial countries are depressive; the risk of depression increases from the age of 12. In a third of minors, the depressive symptoms subside within three months. However, in 80% of those affected, the symptoms may reappear and become chronic.

Mehler-Wex and Kölch emphasise that psychotherapy and psychosocial therapy are mostly necessary; that the antidepressive fluoxetine can be used and that patients with a difficult family background or suicidal tendencies may need to be admitted to hospital.

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First Published in June 2008

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