How Do You Know if a Preschooler is Depressed?

kids depression symptoms
Can preschoolers really be clinically depressed?

The existence of depression in kids age 2 to 5 has gotten a lot of press recently, especially with a couple of articles in The New York Times debating the diagnosis and bringing to light the practice of prescribing psychiatric medications for very young children (heavy duty antipsychotic ones in toddlers, no less).

In this week’s Science of Kids article, I take on the issue of preschool depression: what it means, whether it’s a real phenomenon (as in, how do you separate the natural ups and downs of a kid’s development from an actual problem needing treatment), and what a therapist and parent’s role is in treating it.

How many preschoolers are depressed, according to researchers?

The statistic quoted in The New York Times is 1 to 3 percent (or 86,000 out of 6 million preschoolers in the U.S.) And, as I argue in the column, the question of whether it’s “real” and worth diagnosing has to do with two questions: does it go away on its own, or is it correlated with later childhood and adult depression (short answer, yes); and whether or not you can do anything about it (short answer, yes).

Read more on the topic here and feel free to share your take.

Image: Babble

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