Depression in Children and Teens (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Exams and Tests
Your doctor or another health professional will evaluate and diagnose depression in your child by asking questions about your child's medical history and conducting tests to find out if symptoms are caused by something other than depression. Your child may be given a physical exam or blood tests to rule out conditions such as hypothyroidism and anemia. Your child may be asked to complete a mental health assessment, which tests his or her ability to think, reason, and remember.
You may be asked to help complete a pediatric symptom checklist, a brief screening questionnaire that helps to diagnose depression or other psychological problems in children. Also, your child may be asked to take a short written or verbal test for depression.
Sometimes a more thorough evaluation may be needed to fully assess your child's depression. Interviews may be conducted with the parents or with other people who know the young person well. Specific information may be obtained from the child's teachers or from social service workers.
The sooner treatment begins for depression, the sooner your child is likely to recover. Waiting to seek treatment for depression may mean a longer and more difficult recovery.
Treatment generally includes professional counseling, medicines, and education about depression for your child and your family.
Home treatment is an important part of treating depression. It includes regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
Professional counseling for depression includes several types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy. For more information about counseling, see the Other Treatment section of this topic.
Medicines used to treat childhood depression include several types of drugs called antidepressants.
An important part of treatment is making sure that your child takes medicines as prescribed. Often people who feel better after taking an antidepressant for a period of time may feel like they are "cured" and no longer need treatment. But when medicine is stopped too early, symptoms usually return. So it is important that your child follows the treatment plan.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued advisories stating that people who are taking antidepressants for depression, along with their family members and their doctors, should watch for warning signs of suicide. These signs may include talking about death or suicide and giving away belongings. Before prescribing medicine, your doctor will check your child for possible suicidal thoughts by asking a few questions. See a list of questions your doctor may ask your child.
Education of your child and family members can be provided by a doctor either informally or in family therapy. Some of the most important things that your child and family members can learn include:
Your child may need treatment for other disorders that may be causing ongoing symptoms, such as:
A brief hospital stay may be needed, especially if your child:
If your child is depressed, consider removing all guns and potentially fatal medicines from your home, especially if your child has shown any warning signs of suicide. Although overdosing on medicine is the most common way that teens attempt suicide, your child is at higher risk for completing a suicide if you have a gun in your home, particularly if it is easy to get to it or if you store it loaded.6
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