Is there something really wrong with a society with depressed preschoolers????

1 Jul

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi read this article from Science Daily, Brain Differences Seen in Depressed Preschoolers:

A key brain structure that regulates emotions works differently in preschoolers with depression compared with their healthy peers, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The differences, measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), provide the earliest evidence yet of changes in brain function in young children with depression. The researchers say the findings could lead to ways to identify and treat depressed children earlier in the course of the illness, potentially preventing problems later in life.

Really. We have depressed preschoolers? Should one have experienced more about life before developing a negative opinion of it?

The National Institute of Mental Health in the Depression in Children and Adolescents (Fact Sheet) estimates about “About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18.”

About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.

Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child who shows changes in behavior is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression.


Statistics for the numbers of preschoolers who exhibit depression are hard to come by, but researchers are beginning to study the issue.

Pamela Paul reports in the New York Times article, Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?

But generally speaking, preschool depression, unlike autism, O.D.D. and A.D.H.D., which have clear symptoms, is not a disorder that is readily apparent to the casual observer or even to the concerned parent. Depressed preschoolers are usually not morbidly, vegetatively depressed. Though they are frequently viewed as not doing particularly well socially or emotionally, teachers rarely grasp the depth of the problem. Sometimes the kids zone out in circle time, and it’s mistaken for A.D.H.D., “because they’re just staring,” explains Melissa Nishawala, the child psychiatrist at N.Y.U. “But inside, they’re worrying or thinking negative thoughts.” More often, they are simply overlooked. “These are often the good kids who tend to be timid and withdrawn,” says Sylvana Côté, a researcher at the University of Montreal who studies childhood mood and behavioral disorders. “It’s because they’re not the oppositional, aggressive children who disrupt everyone in class that their problems go undernoticed.”

Many researchers, particularly those with medical training, are eager to identify some kind of a “biologic marker” to make diagnosis scientifically conclusive. Recent studies have looked at the activity of cortisol, a hormone the body produces in response to stress. In preschoolers who have had a diagnosis of depression, as in depressed adults, cortisol levels escalate under stressful circumstances and then fail to recover with the same buoyancy as in typical children.

But in adults, cortisol reactivity can be an indication of anxiety. Other research has found that in young children, anxiety and depression are likewise intertwined. At Duke, Egger found that children who were depressed as preschoolers were more than four times as likely to have an anxiety disorder at school age. “Are these two distinct but strongly related syndromes?” asks Daniel Pine of the N.I.M.H. “Are they just slightly different-appearing clinical manifestations of the same underlying problem? Do the relationships vary at different ages? There are no definitive answers.”

Further complicating the picture is the extent to which depressed children have other ailments. In Egger’s epidemiological sample, three-fourths of depressed children had some additional disorder. In Luby’s study, about 40 percent also had A.D.H.D. or O.D.D., disruptive problems that tend to drown out signs of depression. Though it looks as if only the children with depression experience anhedonia, other symptoms like irritability and sadness are shared across several disorders.

There is no one single cause of depression.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says this about the causes of depression:

Depression has no single cause. Both genetics and the environment play a role, and some children may be more likely to become depressed. Depression in children can be triggered by a medical illness, a stressful situation, or the loss of an important person. Children with behavior problems or anxiety also are more likely to get depressed. Sometimes, it can be hard to identify any triggering event.

Moi would theorize that these preschoolers are picking up stressors form unhealthy family situations and an unhealthy society.

Everyone would probably have some thoughts about what makes a good society or a healthy society. Here are some thoughts from Professor Patrick W. Jordan about THE GOOD SOCIETY FRAMEWORK:

Relationships – the quality of people’s social, family and interpersonal relationships; the extent to which society is coherent and harmonious.

Economy – people’s degree of economic prosperity and spending power;the extent to which jobs are rewarding and offer potential for growth and development.

Environment and Infrastructure the pleasantness and sustainability of the natural environment; the degree to which the built environment is pleasant and functions well and extent to which the infrastructure is effective and efficient.

Health whether people have access to good healthcare and healthy food; whether work, home and public environments are generally safe.

Peace and Security whether crime is low and people feel safe in their homes and public areas; whether or not society is affected by war or terrorism.

Culture and Leisure whether there is a rich and rewarding culture, both high’ and popular’; whether there are opportunities to participate in rewarding leisure activities.

Spirituality, Religion and Philosophy whether there is access to religious and spiritual teachings and the opportunity to practice one’s religion of choice; whether there is access to philosophical teachings and ideas about how to live.

Education whether there is education that enables people to function effectively in society; whether the education is intellectually enriching.

Governance whether there is democracy, fairness and freedom of expression; whether justice is transparent and consistent, and whether society is governed with compassion and equality.                                                                  

Given Professor Jordan’s framework for a healthy society, one might ask how the U.S. is doing? Like the canaries in the mineshaft who die when overcome by poisonous gases, maybe the depressed preschoolers are telling us.

Where information leads to Hope. ©   Dr.

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