I have treated children and adolescents with depression for 20 years. This experience has taught me one important lesson: beginning treatment early for a child or adolescent can have a significant positive impact on the characteristics of the illness in adult. Children and adolescents who are able to receive effective therapy can be significantly more capable in managing their illness and minimizing the impact it has on their lives.
Diagnosing depression in children can be difficult. Many consider it to be harder than diagnosing depression in adults. Adolescents, in particular, are experiencing such dramatic change in their lives and sense of self that detecting depression can very difficult for parents, loved ones and other caregivers.
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. After puberty, girls are twice as likely to have experienced depression. Children with depression may, to an unusual and often persistent extent, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, or worry that a parent may die. Other children may get into a significant amount of trouble at school and be unusually negative and irritable. Because of the natural mood swings in children, depression can be difficult to diagnose. In practice, we tend to focus on the persistency and intensity of these mood swings.
Depression in adolescents frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders or substance abuse. If you think that your child or adolescent may be suffering from depression or other mental illness or condition, please call me. I became a psychiatrist to try to help people with depression and other mental illnesses.