Even Babies Can Be Crazy


This just in from the mental health powers that be: even tiny infants can develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and apathy.

“Infants make meaning about themselves and their relation to the world of people and things,” says an article in the February issue of American Psychologist.  “Some infants may come to make meaning of themselves as helpless and hopeless, and they may become apathetic, depressed and withdrawn. Others seem to feel threatened by the world and may become hyper-vigilant and anxious.”

These problems often go undiagnosed, which can lead to long term problems.Come on, people, it’s hard enough to try to figure out whether a newborn’s cries mean he needs to eat or sleep. How would you diagnose depression in an infant? That well-behaved “quiet” baby? Could he be apathetic? What if what you thought was colic is really anxiety?  I can see this spiraling into a lot of parents squinting at their babies with knitted brows and interpreting their cries as cries for help.

And the diagnosis weren’t problematic enough, there’s the problem of treatment. I’m not sure how exactly an infant is treated for mental health disorders (hugs?). But apparently parents are on their own when it comes to paying for whatever treatment they pursue. Insurance does not cover mental health treatment for children under age 3. Treatment could prevent the child from suffering long-term problems, according to the researchers. The study’s authors are recommending that insurance companies change their policies to cover younger patients.

“There’s a “pervasive, but mistaken, impression that young children do not develop mental health problems and are immune to the effects of early adversity and trauma because they are inherently resilient and ‘grow out of’ behavioral problems and emotional difficulties,” say the authors of another study. They advocate better training and screening by child health professionals to track warning signs in the littlest patients.

[via Medline Plus]