A number of adult sufferers of depressive illness, once they have been cured, describe how they have had similar phases of depression and blackness extending as far back in their lives as they can remember, or extending back to their early or later years at school. They are insistent that the unmistakable quality of the depressive illness they had as an adult is identical in every way to the phases they also had as young children. There is increasing evidence that young children can indeed experience depressive illness.
It is very important not to over-diagnose illnesses of any sort among young children, and therefore great care has to be taken in considering a diagnosis of depressive illness. This is a situation in which a specialist opinion is essential.
Young children’s ways of indicating emotional distress are limited, and usually they will not have the vocabulary to be able to describe what is happening to them. However, significant and prolonged changes in a child’s behaviour pattern, desire to mix with other children, academic abilities and sleep or appetite all raise the possibility of childhood depressive illness. It is important to establish whether or not the child is reacting to emotional difficulties at home or at school, and to establish whether or not some unpleasant event or abusehas happened to the child. However, even if an unpleasant event is discovered and rectified if possible, it is still possible that the stress of the event has triggered off an episode of childhood depressive illness.
The safety of the new antidepressants in children has not yet been established, but equally there is no evidence to suggest they are in any way unsafe.
Unfortunately, in rare occurrences, young children have been found to have committed suicide, and it is very likely that they did so while suffering depressive illness, as is the case with the vast majority of adults who commit suicide. Accordingly, a young child expressing suicidal thoughts needs very careful intervention.
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.