The New York Times Magazine recently featured an article on preschooler depression. Pamela Paul wrote:
Diagnosis of any mental disorder at this young age is subject to debate. No one wants to pathologize a typical preschooler’s tantrums, mood swings and torrent of developmental stages. Grandparents are highly suspicious; parents often don’t want to know. “How many times have you heard, ‘They’ll grow out of it’ or ‘That’s just how he is’?” says Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist at the New York University Child Study Center.
And some in the field have reservations, too. Classifying preschool depression as a medical disorder carries a risk of disease-mongering. “Given the influence of Big Pharma, we have to be sure that every time a child’s ice cream falls off the cone and he cries, we don’t label him depressed,” cautions Rahil Briggs, an infant-toddler psychologist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York. Though research does not support the use of antidepressants in children this young, medication of preschoolers, often off label, is on the rise. One child psychologist told me about a conference he attended where he met frustrated drug-industry representatives. “They want to give these kids medicines, but we can’t figure out the diagnoses.” As Daniel Klein warns, “Right now the problem may be underdiagnosis, but these things can flip completely.”
Reference: “Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?” (The New York Times Magazine, August 25, 2010).
*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*