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Preschool depression: The importance of early detection of depression in young children
Date:5/19/2010

It is difficult to imagine a depressed third-grader. It is even more difficult to imagine a depressed preschooler. Although childhood depression is a well-recognized and treated disorder, only recently have research studies begun looking at depression in children younger than six years old. In the new Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, child psychiatrist/researcher Joan Luby from Washington University in St. Louis reports on recent findings examining depression in preschool-age children and the importance of early detection.

Depression in preschool-aged children does not always look the same as does depression in older children and adults this is one reason that preschool depression has been largely neglected. For example, in depressed adults, anhedonia (the inability to enjoy pleasurable experiences) tends to show up in the form of a decreased libido. In young children however, anhedonia may appear as an inability to enjoy playtime. In addition, preschool depression may go unnoticed by parents because the symptoms may not be disruptive; these children may not seem obviously sad (as do many depressed adults) and may have periods of normal functioning during the day. A key advance for the recognition of preschool depression has been the development of age-appropriate psychiatric interviews. These interviews have shown that preschool-age children do in fact exhibit typical symptoms of depression, including appearing less joyful, being prone to guilt, and changes in sleep patterns.

Research suggests that preschool depression is not just a temporary occurrence but may instead be an early manifestation of the same chronic disorder occurring later on studies have demonstrated that depressed preschoolers are more likely to have depression in later childhood and adolescence than are healthy preschoolers. Due to the potentially long-lasting effect of preschool depression, early
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Contact: Barbara Isanski
bisanski@psychologicalscience.org
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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