Study: Depression in preschoolers is real
Contrary to the stereotype of carefree preschoolers, a study released today shows depression can be chronic even in children ages 3 to 6.
A research team followed 200 preschoolers for up to two years, diagnosing 75 with major depression. Participants were given mental health exams up to four times during the study. Depression was most common in children whose mothers suffered from depression or other mood disorders, and among those children who had endured a traumatic event.
The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, was published today in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
The Associated Press story on the study talks to Dr. Helen Egger, a Duke University psychiatrist who has studied childhood depression. Egger says doctors commonly see depressed kids when they are teens, though parents often say the symptoms began early in life.
Egger points out that preschoolers can be moody (don't we know it, Mommas!), but have no trouble recovering and being happy at playtime. Depressed preschoolers are sad at playtime and their games have sorrowful or deadly themes. Other signs of depression: chronic lack of appetite, sleep trouble and fits of biting, kicking or hitting, along with guilt preoccupation (constant apologies for minor mishaps).
Of course such a study raises issues of treatment. Egger, for one, says psychotherapy should be the first course, given what little research there is on psychiatric medicine and young children.
-- Amy Hollyfield