Childhood depression has become a serious
problem in the U.S. Approximately 2.5 percent of children and up to 8.3
percent of adolescents in the U.S. suffer from this condition. There are
several reasons for this. For some, there is a genetic component. One
or both of the parents have some sort of a depressive/anxiety disorder.
For example, the father may be bipolar or the mother dysthymic (chronic
low level depression). But that in itself is the cause in about 30% of
cases of childhood depression. Additionally, there is often an environmental
factor such as a death in the family, a sexual assault, an early separation
such as the mother being hospitalized or shipped off as a combatant or
a bitter divorce which can trigger the depression. Family dynamics also
plays an important role. If the child doesn't feel safe and wanted, this
can contribute to childhood depression.
What many people don't realize is that depression can
look very different in children than adults. In the child the only time
you see the severe tearful, sad, withdrawn nature is when the child is
severely depressed. Instead, you may see
· Aggressive behavior
· Self-deprecating remarks
· Sleep disturbances
· Decreased desire to play
· A change in school grades or interaction with peers
· Physical complaints
· Loss of usual energy
· Decrease or increase in appetite
If you see two or more of these signs for at least 1
month, then your child should be evaluated for depression. A final form
of childhood depression is when the child appears cheerful in public and
cries when alone.
Growing Up Sad by Drs. Cytryn and McKnew
These two psychiatrists established the diagnosis of childhood depression
within the field of psychiatric disorders. The book is more a vehicle
for the scientific support for this diagnosis, than a manual for
Prozac Free by Dr. Judyth Ullman
Dr. Ullman is both a psychologist and a naturopathic physician.
This book gives the reader a good idea of how effective homeopathy
is in treating depression.
Straight Talk about Your Child's Mental Health by Dr. Stephen
This is a fine how-to recognize and what to do if you suspect something
is "off" with your child.
The Bipolar Child by Dr. Demitri and Janice Papolos
Bipolar disorder is a unique form of depression with both mania
and depression. It's rare in children, but if you or your spouse
has it and you suspect it in your child, this is a good book to
NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depchildresfact.cfm
Your Role in the
An important concept in Naturopathic
Medicine is the partnership between pysician and patient.
The patient must take an active role in his or her own healing.
If your child has depression, there are several
ways to help your child. First, determine how serious it is. If
your child is talking about or actively planning suicide, then immediately
contact your child's physician for the correct plan of action. If
things haven't reached that point, then talk to your child - find
out what's wrong. With the help of a therapist, work on changing
the circumstances that may have triggered the depression.
I've had the satisfaction of helping many depressed
children regain a feeling of self-worth as they resume more emotionally-balanced
lives. I have found that for those wanting to avoid conventional
medications and their side-effects, there are many effective natural
treatments. One of my clients' favorite tools is homeopathy. Homeopathy
is safe, nontoxic, and helps the child regain control more quickly
than conventional medications. (See the webpage on my site on homeopathy
Jeff, please put a link here). A book that will help you understand
the potential of homeopathy in treating depression is called Prozac-Free
by Dr. Judyth Ullman. In addition, I make a few dietary recommendations
and may use some specific vitamins (often called orthomolecular
medicine) and herbs temporarily. Some of the children I treat who
have already been on anti-depressants comment that homeopathy doesn't
make them feel "weird" or "dopey" or just "not
One of the most important considerations in treating
your child's depression is a 1992 scientific finding by Lewis Baxter.
Brain scans altered by mood alteration returned to normal with treatment
whether or not pharmaceutical drugs were used. The key was that
the child was reached and recovery occurred. It was the result,
not the means that caused the brain scans to reflect a normal state.
(Baxter. Archives of General Psychiatry 1992;49:681-689 - secondary
reference in Growing Up Sad)
If recognized and treated, your child can go on
to have a normal life. If not, there may be multiple reoccurrences
continuing on into adulthood. Whatever you and your child decide,