Depression | Frequently Asked Questions

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Contact the Department of Psychiatry

  • 617-355-6680

Will my child get better?

The majority of children respond to treatment for depression, so it’s most likely that your child will, too. The time frame depends on many factors. A child who is good at communicating may benefit from talk therapy (our primary method of treatment) more quickly than a child who is more hesitant. If your child is taking medication, it may take a while to find the ones that work best.

What is dysthemic disorder?

Dysthemic disorder, or “dysthemia,” is a milder form of depression. If your child has dysthemia, he or she will be in a depressed or irritable for most of the day, more days than not, for at least a year. They may not seem as depressed as a child with major depression but still not function or feel well.

To be diagnosed with dysthemia, your child must show impaired functioning at home, school and also with friends. Children with dysthemia may experience a bout of major depression.

It's estimated that around four out of 100 children and teens have dysthemia, and it' s equally common in boys and girls. Children with dysthemia are more likely to develop major depression as teenagers or young adults.

Are antidepressants safe for children to take?

The safety and efficacy of antidepressants for children and teens have been studied extensively. Prozac and other medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to be safe in most studies and can be effective for teenagers, but should be carefully monitored by the prescribing physician. 

What is the “black label warning”?

Since 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has placed a black warning label on antidepressant medications, warning that antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with major depression and other psychiatric disorders. If your child is prescribed antidepressants, your clinician will carefully go over the specifics of the drug, as well as any potential side effects you should watch for. 

What should I do if I think my child is depressed?

If you think your child is depressed, it’s important to have an evaluation as soon as possible. Contact your child’s pediatrician, who may refer you to a mental health professional. If you’re concerned your child might harm themself or others, call your child’s mental health practitioner or primary care doctor immediately. It’s very important you take any suicidal signs seriously. 

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