Antidepressants are effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety and depression in children and teens. Even though their use is successful they need to be used cautiously and under observation so that there is no serious side effect.
The antidepressants come with a warning of the risk of increased suicidal thoughts in some individuals below 25 years of age.
The side effects are rare and only occur in a small number of children and teens, but are very serious. This is why every prescription antidepressant has a warning put on it. As depression is in itself a big problem to deal with which can also lead to suicidal thoughts, antidepressants should be used very carefully.
Antidepressant benefits the individual by uplifting mood and lessening anxiety, which outweighs this risk factor.
What To Do If A Child Is Anxious Or Depressed?
If a child is depressed or is suffering from anxiety, before starting with any antidepressant it is better to go for a complete physical examination to rule out any physical cause of depression and anxiety.
If no problem is detected after a physical examination, the next step should be a psychiatric evaluation by a pediatrician who specializes in pediatric mental health. The psychiatric evaluation includes all the important information including family history, child behavior and the risk factors by which he could hurt himself.
Understanding all these factor help the mental health professional determine what type of treatment to start with. This might or might not include antidepressants.
What Are The Antidepressants Approved For Children?
Prozac for 8 years and older kids and Lexapro for 12 years and older children are the two antidepressants approved by the FDA.(1)
There are few other drugs as well which seem to work well and are often prescribed by the doctors. They are not FDA approved but work well and are fairly safe.
Make sure to read the medication guide that comes with the antidepressants to know about the risks, side effects, and cautions.
If antidepressants are prescribed, the physician would start with the lowest possible dose and may further adjust depending on the child’s symptoms.
The risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior is greatest during the first month of starting the antidepressant and also when the dose is increased and decreased.(2) It is therefore important to be observant of the child’s behavior during this time.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Suicidal Thoughts In Children?
To, look out for the signs of suicidal thoughts it is important to keep a watch on the child when he/she starts with the antidepressant and also when the dosage is changed.
The warning signs include:
- Panic attacks
- Talks about dying
- Becoming sad
- Being more anxious than before
- Being restless and agitated
- Becoming violent and aggressive or mean
- Trying to hurt self
- Talking and moving around more than usual
- Developing problems at school with friends or with siblings at home
If any of these signs are visible in the child and there is an increase in them it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Do not stop the treatment without the guidance of the doctor, as it may lead to anxiety and return of the depression symptoms.
Other Treatment Options For Children With Depression
Antidepressants are a safe and effective way for the treatment of depression and anxiety in children and teenagers. It can also be combined with psychotherapy.
It can also be that the antidepressants are used for just a small time. In some cases, only psychotherapy is used to help the child come out of depression. If the child is not responding to psychotherapy, antidepressants are started.
Other treatment options for children with depression include:
Cognitive behavior therapy: During the therapy, the mental health professional helps the child improve coping skills, communication, and problem-solving skills. The doctor also helps the child become aware of the harmful ideas and how to replace them with positive approaches.
Interpersonal Therapy: This therapy helps the child focus on relationships and adapt to the changes in the relations and make new ones.
In some, talk-therapy would be beneficial.
Antidepressants are safe to be used in children and are very effective when psychotherapy is done along. It is also important to keep a watch on the child’s behavior while on medication and to consult a doctor if any suspicious activity is noticed.