Preschoolers Can Suffer Chronic Depression: Study
A new study reaches the at once fascinating and troubling
result that preschoolers as young as three can suffer one of the most
debilitating mental illnesses we know of: chronic depression.
Associated Press story reports some of the study's main details:
study is billed as the first to show major depression can be chronic even in
very young children, contrary to the stereotype of the happy-go-lucky
Until fairly recently, "people really haven't paid much
attention to depressive disorders in children under the age of 6," said lead
author Dr. Joan Luby, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis.
"They didn't think it could happen ... because children under 6 were too
emotionally immature to experience it."
Previous research suggested that
depression affects about 2 percent of U.S. preschoolers, or roughly 160,000
youngsters, at one time or another. But it was unclear whether depression in
preschoolers could be chronic, as it can be in older children and adults.
Luby's research team followed more than 200 preschoolers, ages 3 to 6, for
up to two years, including 75 diagnosed with major depression. The children had
up to four mental health exams during the study.
Among initially depressed
children, 64 percent were still depressed or had a recurrent episode of
depression six months later, and 40 percent still had problems after two years.
Overall, nearly 20 percent had persistent or recurrent depression at all four
Depression was most common in children whose mothers were also
depressed or had other mood disorders, and among those who had experienced a
traumatic event, such as the death of a parent or physical or sexual abuse.
Here's the abstract of the study. The study's conclusions, according to the
Preschool depression, similar to childhood depression, is not
a developmentally transient syndrome but rather shows chronicity and/or
recurrence... These results underscore the clinical and public health importance
of identification of depression as early as preschool. Further follow-up of
preschoolers with depression is warranted to inform the longitudinal course
What makes this study so interesting is, if it's borne
out by further research that some preschoolers do indeed have chronic
depression, then it raises a huge challenge. How will mental health
professionals effectively treat these children?
Not nearly enough is
known about how antidepressant drugs, a major treatment for people with
depression affect such young minds, including their long-term brain development.
Presumably, cognitive behavior play therapy which is often used in children this
age, would be part of the therapy. But, again, the potential use of powerful
antidepressants in such young patients is enough to give many people pause.WTF, Next thing you know, newborn will be found to have depression. I swear to baby Jesus, it a way to dope up our future generations.