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Mood Disorders Going Undetected in U.S. Children
Date:7/14/2010

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- American kids who suffer from anxiety or depression may not be getting the help they need.

Mental health experts say the reasons are complicated, but fixable.

More than one in 10 children age 9 to 17 years old -- girls more often than boys -- experience some sort of mood disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And about half of them are receiving no therapy or treatment, reported a study in Pediatrics conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Kids with anxiety and depression, especially, are going without treatment, the study found.

This is a serious public health problem, doctors say. If left untreated, childhood anxiety and depression can grow into even more serious mental health problems later in life, said Dr. Jon Shaw, a professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"We know that 25 percent of children with major depressive disorder will become bipolar in adulthood," Shaw said. Nearly three-fourths, he said, are likely to have a recurrence of their depression as adults.

However, the conditions often go unrecognized, and thus untreated, in children in part because of the somewhat laissez-faire attitude that adults have had in the past regarding troubled children.

"We've always had the notion that they'll grow out of it so there's this thought that they are just reacting to something and it will be a short-term problem," said Dr. Scott Benson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Pensacola, Fla.

Children also often are not as effective as adults in expressing how they feel. "They don't have a good 'feeling' vocabulary," Benson explained.

"The bigger problem has to do with the concept of self-awareness," he said. "Children don't have a consolidated self to meas
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