Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?

Diagnosing and labeling childhood behaviors has become commonplace in today’s search for a cause. Doctors are now talking about depression among preschoolers, and hypothesizing about whether or not these depressed youngsters will be at higher risk for depression in later years.

The issue is explored in depth in this week’s New York Times Magazine:

“The history of mental illness has been, in many ways, an ongoing lowering of the bar to entry. Depression was originally seen as an adult problem with origins in childhood, rather than something that existed in children. The psychoanalytic view was that children didn’t have the mental capacity for depression; their superegos were not sufficiently developed. One of the most important mental-health discoveries of the past 10 to 20 years has been that chronic mental illnesses are predominantly illnesses of the young,” says Daniel Pine, chief of the emotion-and-development branch in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, “they begin when we are young and affect us, often profoundly, during the childhood years, shaping the adults we become.”

Obviously, this is a controversial issue. What are the long term effects of a diagnosis for a young child? And what is the difference between a child who is reacting to a particular situation – or even a traumatic event, and a child who is clinically depressed?

“Diagnosis of any mental disorder at this young age is subject to debate. No one wants to pathologize a typical preschooler’s tantrums, mood swings and torrent of developmental stages. Grandparents are highly suspicious; parents often don’t want to know. “How many times have you heard, ‘They’ll grow out of it’ or ‘That’s just how he is’?” says Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist at the New York University Child Study Center.

Questions immediately arise concerning whether or not these depressed toddlers will be offered prescription medication for their mental afflictions, and if that does turn out to be the case, if this would offer any answer to the problem.

Please read the entire article: Can Preschoolers Be Depressed? and join the discussion below.

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