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Depression & Related Disorders

Sadness, hopelessness, and depression are among the most common symptoms of child and adolescent depression and related disorders. Please refer to the sections below (as well as to the left menu box) for more information about these difficulties and to learn about the best-supported treatment options.

What is Depression?

Although it is common for most children and teenagers to feel down or sad sometimes, a smaller number of youth experience a more severe phenomenon known as depression. Such young people, who are often described as "clinically" depressed, feel sad, hopeless, or irritable for weeks or even months at a time. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy (e.g., playing with friends), their sleeping and eating habits often change (i.e., they may eat or sleep either more or less than usual), and they may have trouble thinking or paying attention, even to TV programs or games.

Of particular concern, youths who are clinically depressed may think or talk a lot about death and some depressed children have more specific thoughts about hurting or killing themselves. Often children and teenagers may have similar symptoms when they are grieving the loss of someone close to them. In clinical depression, however, these thoughts and feelings tend to appear even when the child has not experienced a loss or a sad event. To learn more about various forms of depression, please use the quick links on the left to learn more.

As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of depression in children, and CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are preferred therapies for adolescent depression. Treatments can be administered in a variety of different formats, each of which has varying levels of research support.

Children

Works Well
What does this mean?
  • CBT group, child only
  • CBT child group, plus parent component
Works
What does this mean?
Might Work
What does this mean?
N/A
Unknown/Untested
What does this mean?
  • Child group psychoeducation, plus parent intervention
  • Family Therapy

Adolescents

Works Well
What does this mean?
Works
What does this mean?
  • Adolescent CBT group, plus parent component
  • Individual CBT
  • Individual CBT, plus parent/family component
Might Work
What does this mean?
N/A
Unknown/Untested
What does this mean?
  • Self-directed bibliotherapy
  • IPT group, adolescent only
  • Nondirected support group, adolescent only
  • Family Therapy

Source: David-Ferndon, C., Kaslow, N. J. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for child and adolescent depression. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 62-104.

Note: Evidence for efficacious interventions that reduce depression is based on data indicating significant reductions in depressive symptoms and/or depressive disorder diagnoses. Accordingly, it should be noted that some of the data used to support the interventions listed above are based on clinically-referred and/or school-based normative samples of youth.

 

 
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