Category Archives: Depression

Study Finds Even Preschoolers Can Be Depressed

Children can and do suffer from depression, however, even very small children can suffer from depression a new study has found. The researchers discovered that preschoolers who suffer from depression are also likely to experience a recurrence of their depressive symptoms throughout childhood.

Most childhood depression studies carried out to date have focussed on school age children of around 6 years old and older. Now, according to this recent study by L. Luby et al, from the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, even 3 year olds can show signs of suffering from major depression.

The study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry involved around 250 preschool children between the ages of 3 and 5 who were regularly assessed for signs of depression over a period of 6 years.

Of the 74 children diagnosed with depression at the start of the trial, around 50 percent went on to meet the criteria for depression 6 years later compared to only 24 percent of those who were not depressed at the start of the study.

The study also involved evaluating the relationship between the child and their parents/caregivers through two way mirrors and asking the children’s’ parents/caregivers questions on the child’s moods, emotions, playtime activities, and appetite and sleep patterns.

Children whose mother’s suffered from depression were more likely to suffer from depression themselves later on. However, the biggest risk for suffering from depression in childhood was being diagnosed with depression as a preschool child.

“Preschool depression predicted school-age depression over and above any of the other well-established risk factors” Luby said.

“Those children appear to be on a trajectory for depression that’s independent of other psychosocial variables.”

Difficult and Challenging

However, diagnosing depression in very young children is a lot more difficult and challenging than diagnosing depression in older children or adults, mainly because very young children either cannot articulate exactly how they are feeling or they find it difficult to find the words to express themselves accurately. Diagnosing depression is extremely important though because the earlier it is identified the more successful the treatment.

The biggest challenge with childhood depression is really recognising it in the first place. This is because not all children who are suffering from depression appear sad and unhappy and not all children who are sad and unhappy are suffering from depression. The symptoms may also differ depending on the age of the child and whether the child is able to speak or not.

Symptoms of depression in older children

Although it is still challenging diagnosing depression in older children, it is still easier than recognising it in very young children. The following is not an exhaustive list but these symptoms can be an indication of depression.


  • Poor performance at school
  • Self depreciating and feeling unworthy
  • Think they are unlovable and unloved
  • May speak of or be preoccupied with themes of death or dying
  • May intentionally hurt themselves
  • Frequent bouts of unexplained illness
  • Low moods and appears sad most of the time
  • No longer enjoying activities they used to
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Anxiety and excessive worrying
  • Emotional outbursts and crying frequently
  • Permanently bored
  • Defiant behaviour
  • Poor conduct
  • Major changes to appetite with weight gain or weight loss
  • Major changes to sleep patterns with sleeping to much or too little

Symptoms of depression in preschool children

This is much more difficult, not just to correctly diagnose depression but also because a lot of mental health professionals don’t acknowledge that depression can exist in a very young child as it still isn’t accepted in mainstream psychiatric circles. According to Luby it definitely does exist although she recognises that it isn’t common at about 1 or 2 percent.

Luby says an exceptionally ‘good’ child may actually be a depressed child as kids as young as this “are not disruptive in their environment” and she described them as “the wheel that’s not squeaky.”

A young child who is suffering from depression may also look sad and generally unhappy and show an inability to enjoy activities that most other preschool children are able to enjoy.

Guilt is another indicator, in that if something goes wrong, the child feels as though they are somehow to blame and it is their fault.

If these sorts of symptoms persist for longer than a week or two, then it is time to seek help says Luby.

Treatment for preschool depression

Medication combined with cognitive therapy is the standard treatment for children and adults suffering from major depression, however, this isn’t the case for very young children. Luby recommends psychotherapy in the form of play therapy and she is currently developing a treatment that will involve parent/child interaction therapy.

Medication is absolutely not the way forward she says as the drugs given to older children haven’t been tested in very young children.


TMS for when drugs don’t work

Most people suffering from depression are likely to be offered Antidepressants as a first treatment when they visit their doctor for help. Although this isn’t ideal, sometimes it is the only option available as lengthy waiting lists along with a lack of resources means that other types of therapies such as cognitive therapy might not be immediately available.


Although antidepressants are effective for many, one of the main problems with them is that any relief they do offer, comes with the price of suffering some unpleasant side effects, including nausea, dizziness, sleep disturbances, headaches, loss of libido, agitation, and erectile dysfunction in men.  Another problem is that in some people, antidepressants will have no effect on the symptoms of depression whatsoever. No one really understands why this is the case and it isn’t possible to predict which people will benefit and which won’t.


Now, a new study has highlighted an innovative therapy that is fast gaining recognition as a possible maintenance treatment for major depression in people who either couldn’t tolerate antidepressants or found that the antidepressant drugs didn’t work.


Magnetic pulses


Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS as it is known is a treatment involving magnets placed on the head to send magnetic pulses to the parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood.


Neurostar Inc is the company that has come up with Neurostar TMS machine which apparently carries very few, if any, side effects. The most common is a mild headache after treatment.


Pilot Study


In a pilot study carried out by Neurostar, the researchers treated half of the patients with TMS for a period of six weeks and the other half were observed monthly. After the six week period they found that 61.2 percent of those treated with TMS had experienced a remission of depression symptoms and after three months the figure was 62.5 percent compared to 43.8 percent of those who didn’t receive TMS therapy.


“This pilot study supports the notion that maintenance TMS may be useful in the prevention of recurrence of major depression and is an important step in learning what the optimum treatment parameters will be” said Dr. Scott Aaronson, director of Clinical Research Programs and associate medical director at Sheppard Pratt, in a statement.


“This preliminary information will help define an approach to TMS as a maintenance therapy as we extend our understanding of the long-term usefulness of TMS in the treatment of people with this debilitating illness.”


Neurostar Inc revealed the results of their study at the 167th American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in New York. According to the company, the treatment is safe.


Unlike ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) patients do not require sedating prior to treatment. TMS can be carried out in the doctor’s surgery and is typically given daily for a period of four to six weeks.


Effective for more than 50 percent


The results of another study released in May 2014, showed that after one year, more than 50 percent of patients suffering from major depression and treated with Neurostar TMS either had no symptoms of depression or very mild symptoms. After the same period of time the figure is only 38 percent for antidepressants.


Dr Amit Anand from the Center for Behavioural Health at Cleveland Clinic thinks that TMS could be a useful addition to the treatments already available at the Clinic.

“It’s a way to treat depression directly, with few side effects” said Anand, who was not involved in the Neurostar study.


“Other research has shown only a small percentage of people respond to it, but I think if even a quarter of those people respond, it’s a benefit.”




One disadvantage, however, is that TMS is more expensive than drugs, costing between 7,000 and 10,000 dollars. However, if you consider that the treatment isn’t likely to be ongoing in the same way that medication is, then the cost is more viable. Some insurance companies in the US are starting to fund TMS treatment.


TMS in the UK


In the UK and indeed in Europe, TMS is available in very few places. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that doctors can only offer this treatment in the UK on the NHS as part of a research study.


Conflicting results


Not much is currently known about the way it works and indeed there have been conflicting results as to whether it works as well as some reports have indicated. In one analysis of 11 studies involving 197 people, there was an improvement after two weeks but not after that.  In another analysis of 33 studies involving 877 patients there was no real difference between TMS and a placebo. In yet another study comparing TMS with ECT, 10 out of 20 people having TMS responded to the treatment with 2 of them cured compared to 6 out of 15 having ECT where 3 were cured.


Anything that helps alleviate the symptoms of depression is welcome and TMS could well find its place as a further option, especially where previous treatment has failed.


New Study finds Depression is as deadly as smoking

The results of a brand new study carried out by researchers at Oxford University is telling us that mental health problems can be just as deadly as smoking twenty or more cigarettes a day. This is shocking news considering that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point.


Shortened life expectancy


According to the researchers, people who smoke twenty cigarettes a day shorten their lives by about eight to ten years, and if we compare this to what the Oxford study found, people with recurrent depression have a shortened life expectancy of between seven and eleven years. It’s worse for other types of mental illness. People with Bipolar disorder have a reduction in life expectancy of between nine and twenty years, and between ten to twenty years for Schizophrenia. By far the worst result was for people with drug and alcohol problems; their life expectancy was reduced by up to 24 years.


The report stated that people with mental health problems in the UK have a similar life expectancy to people living in North Korea or Bangladesh. So why is this?


Ineffective Care


Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust suggests that people with mental health problems may not be getting access to the care they need.


“People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society” said Dr Williams.


“This work emphasises how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate health care and advice, which is not always the case. We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.”


The researchers looked at data from 20 separate studies covering all sorts of mental health problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The information came from data on more than 1.7 million people and included approximately 250,000 deaths. This information was then compared to data on heavy smoking.


The author of the Oxford study, Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University explains why there might be a drop in life expectancy.


“There are likely to be many reasons for this. High risk behaviours are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide.”


Dr Fazel also highlighted the need for appropriate care.


“The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do go to see a doctor” said Dr Fazel who explained that one problem is the tendency to separate mental illness from physical illness.


“Many causes of mental health problems also have physical consequences and mental illness worsens the prognosis of a range of physical illnesses, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Unfortunately, people with serious mental illnesses may not access healthcare effectively” said Fazel, who also believes that it doesn’t have to be like that.

“All of this can be changed” explained Fazel.


It can be done


“There are effective drug and psychological treatments for mental health problems. We can improve mental health and social care provision. That means making sure people have straightforward access to health care and appropriate jobs and meaningful daytime activities. It’ll be challenging, but it can be done”.


No one would deny that smoking is a huge health problem and that many measures have been put in place by governments and media campaigns to reduce the number of people smoking and that these have been on the whole quite effective. Currently it is estimated that around twenty percent of the population smoke and statistics are starting to show that smoking related deaths are on the decline. However, just under half of the people who smoke have some sort of mental health problem.


The study does show how important it is that professionals pay particular attention to the physical health of people with mental health problems and not to focus on the mental health symptoms alone.


“Psychiatrists have a particular responsibility as doctors to ensure that the physical health of their patients is not neglected” said Dr Fazel.


“De-medicalization of psychiatric services mitigates against that” he added.


“What we do need is for researchers, care providers and governments to make mental health a much higher priority for research and innovation. Smoking is recognised as a huge public health problem. There are effective ways to target smoking, and with political will and funding, rates of smoking-related deaths have started to decline. We now need a similar effort in mental health”.


The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and has been published in the Journal World Psychiatry.



Suicidal behaviour in young adults on SSRIs

Newly published research is calling for doctors to be careful when handing out prescriptions to treat depression in teens and young adults, and when they do they should monitor the youngsters closely, particularly if they are on an elevated dose, due to an increased risk of suicidal behaviour and self harm.


Twice as likely


The research, which was published in the Journal JAMA Internal Medicine at the end of April 2014, found that those between the ages of 10 and 24 receiving very high doses of drugs known as SSRI antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) were twice as likely to try to harm themselves as those receiving lower or the recommended doses of these drugs.


The risk also appeared to be age dependent with those under the age of 25 and on higher than normal doses the most at risk. The risk was also highest during the first three months of taking the drugs. The same risk was not found in older people on high doses of these drugs.


SSRIs nearly 70 percent of all prescriptions


The study was led by Dr. Matthew Miller from the Harvard School of Public Health and involved over 162,000 people aged between 10 and 64 who had been treated for depression with one of three different types of SSRI drugs; citalopramhydrobromide, sertraline hydrochloride, and fluoxetine hydrochloride. These drugs are also sold under the trade names of Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac and were chosen for the study because these are the drugs that account for nearly 70 percent of all prescriptions initially issued to treat depression.


The researchers compared those who were taking an average or recommended dose of these drugs with those who were receiving higher than normal doses between 1998 and 2010.

They checked at intervals of one month, quarterly and a year after initially being prescribed these drugs for evidence of attempted suicide or incidents of deliberate self harm.


After analysis of the results, they found that one out of every 150 patients who were treated with high dose antidepressants deliberately self harmed.


“If I were a parent, I definitely wouldn’t want my child to start on a higher dose of these drugs” said Dr. Miller.


Alarm bells


It isn’t the first time alarm bells have been rung because of the risk of suicidal behaviour when taking antidepressants. Back in October 2004 after a government review the FDA issued a warning about the risk of self harm in children prescribed SSRIs. The FDA directed manufacturers to add a ‘black box’ warning to the healthcare professional labelling of all antidepressant medications to describe this risk and emphasize the need for close monitoring of patients started on these medications.


However, one research study published inJournal of the American Medical Associationin 2007 concluded that the benefits of prescribing antidepressants to young people suffering from depression far outweighed the risks. Yet another study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in the same year found that suicide rates in the young had increased despite a drop in the number of SSRI prescriptions issued. Some researchers reckon that this is evidence that SSRIs actually offer some protection against suicidal behaviour.


However, no studies have ever looked at the dosages of these antidepressants and the risks of suicidal behaviour and self harm like this most recent US study did.


Unanswered questions


There are still questions that remain unanswered though. For example, it’s not clear exactly why high doses lead to an increased risk of suicide in younger people. It is also not clear why some people are affected and not others or why some types of drugs carry a greater risk than others. We also don’t know if the same risks apply when treatment is started at the average or recommended dose and is increased progressively afterwards.


The results also don’t explain why some people in the study were prescribed very high doses of these antidepressants in the first place. The requirement was that those included in the study shouldn’t have been prescribed an antidepressant in the previous year, however, that didn’t preclude people who may have been prescribed them prior to that. It could be that these people had different circumstances than those newly prescribed antidepressants.


Regardless, it would seem clear that doctors should look for other alternatives than starting children and young adults on very high doses of these drugs.


Official Recommendations


According to NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) the CHMP (Committee for Human Medicinal Products) noted that suicidal behaviour and hostility were seen more frequently in clinical trials where children and adolescents were treated with these antidepressants compared to those treated with a placebo and advised that SSRIs “shouldn’t be used in children and adolescents except in their approved indications – usually not depression”.


However, doctors can make a decision based on the individual needs of a patient. In these cases, CHMP recommends that patients are monitored carefully, especially at the beginning of treatment, for signs of suicidal behaviour, self harm and/or hostility.







The “cuddle ” Hormone For Depression ??

People suffering from depression could in future be given a “cuddle hormone” to encourage them to reach out to others for support.

Scientists believe that treating those in distress with oxytocin, a hormone linked to emotional bonding in childbirth and breastfeeding, could help to stop them withdrawing from the help of their friends and family.

New research has shown that the hormone can increase people’s trust in others following social rejection.

In an experiment, 100 students were given either oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray. They were then engaged in a staged conversation in which researchers disagreed with, interrupted and ignored them.

The participants were asked to fill out mood and personality questionnaires, which showed that those who were particularly distressed after being snubbed by the researchers reported feeling greater trust in other people if they had sniffed oxytocin beforehand.

By contrast, the hormone had no effect on those who were not emotionally affected by the social rejection, according to the research, which was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Dr Mark Ellenbogen, from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, who carried out the study, said: “That means that instead of the traditional ‘fight or flight’ response to social conflict, where people get revved up to respond to a challenge or run away from it, oxytocin may promote the ‘tend and befriend’ response, where people reach out to others for support after a stressful event.

“That can, in turn, strengthen social bonds and may be a healthier way to cope.”

People with depression might benefit in particular from being given oxytocin because they naturally tend to withdraw even though seeking help can aid their recovery.

Co-researcher Christopher Cardoso said: “If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals.”

Reactions to the hormone appear to depend more on individual differences and contextual factors than most other drugs, so learning more about how it works will help scientists understand how it could be used in future treatment.

Mr Cardoso said: “Previous studies have shown that natural oxytocin is higher in distressed people, but before this study nobody could say with certainty why that was the case.

“In distressed people, oxytocin may improve one’s motivation to reach out to others for support. That idea is cause for a certain degree of excitement, both in the research community and for those who suffer from mood disorders.”

Oxytocin is the hormone the body releases to trigger labour and which helps in the bonding process with the newborn child. It has also been called the love hormone as it is released at orgasm.

Previous research has found that being given oxytocin causes men with wives or long–term partners to keep a greater distance from an attractive woman but has no effect on bachelors.

Although those in relationships did not judge the woman to be any less attractive, they began to feel uncomfortable more quickly when approached by the woman and asked her to remain further away.

A separate study found that the hormone can make men as sensitive as women.

It is thought that oxytocin could prove valuable in the treatment of autism and other conditions characterised by difficulty in connecting with others and in reading emotions.

Is Depression In Teens Linked To Fear Response?

A new study carried out by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College has given us an interesting insight into a possible reason why depression, anxiety, and stress related problems peak during adolescence. Could a reduced ability to let go of fear lie at the root of at least some of the mental health problems experienced during this time?


The study involved a group of volunteers, a computer screen, headphones and sweat meters, and the results showed that when the teenagers were faced with a perceived threat, it triggered an emotional response that the youngsters couldn’t seem to suppress even after the threat was no longer present.


“This is the first study to show, in an experiment, that adolescent humans have diminished fear extinction learning” said Dr Siobhan Pattwell, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at Weill Cornell.


The study


The researchers asked a group of children, adolescent, and adult volunteers to look at a computer screen which showed a sequence of images consisting of blue or yellow squares. Associated with one of the squares was an unpleasant sound, for example, half of the time, one of the coloured squares consistently triggered the sound. The participants all wore headphones and skin sweat meters whilst viewing the images. If an individual acquired a fear of the sound, they perspired more when they saw that same image that had been associated with the unpleasant noise.


Adults and children responded differently to teens


The following day, the same group once again viewed a sequence of yellow and blue square images but this time there was no unpleasant noise associated with any of the images. This is where it gets interesting.


Those in the 12 to 17 age group didn’t show a decrease in their fear response whereas adults and children didn’t have this problem. The children and adults participating in the experiment appeared to quickly learn that neither the yellow nor the blue square was linked to an unpleasant sound and their fear response rapidly decreased.


“Teenagers didn’t decrease their fear response, and maintained their fear throughout subsequent trials when no noise was played” says Dr Pattwell.


“Our findings are important because they might explain why epidemiologists have found that anxiety disorders seem to spike during adolescence or just before adolescence. It is estimated that over 75 percent of adults with fear-related disorders can trace the roots of their anxiety to earlier ages.”


Standard exposure therapy may not work


According to Dr Francis Lee, Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and senior co investigator in the study, the standard desensitization techniques (exposure therapies) may not be effective on adolescents.


“If adolescents have a more difficult time learning that something that once frightened them is no longer a danger, then it is clear that the standard desensitization techniques from fear may not work on them”.


More personalized approaches needed


According to Dr Lee, personalized approaches to treatment of fear and anxiety disorders in teens needs to be investigated.


“It is essential that we find a way to help teenagers become more resilient to the fear they experience during adolescence to prevent it from leading to a lifetime of anxiety and depression.”


The study was published on September 17th in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),


Adolescent Depression


Depression and anxiety related disorders can be difficult to diagnose in teenagers simply because teens often experience emotional ups and downs and this is considered perfectly normal. However if a teenager’s behaviour changes radically and they are showing symptoms and signs of depression that lasts for two weeks or more and it’s affecting the child’s ability to function on a day to day basis then speak to a doctor or health care provider.


What to look out for:


  • Persistent low moods
  • Negative thinking
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Constant fatigue
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Complaining of aches and pains without an obvious cause
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional instability
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Agitation or Irritability
  • Withdrawal from family and/or friends
  • Irrational or bizarre behaviour
  • Poor performance at school or college
  • Loss of interest in appearance and poor personal hygiene
  • Use of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or talking about death


If a teen is experiencing any of these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean they are definitely suffering from depression but a doctor will be able to rule out other possible causes. The teenage years are difficult enough for many children without the added burden of depression and anxiety, which if left untreated, is likely to persist into adulthood.


Depression In Children May Be Contagious


We all know that kids can catch infectious childhood illnesses from each other but who would have thought that depression could be passed on? Many studies have already revealed that peer group pressure can influence children and that if a child is particularly disruptive he or she can influence other children, but now a recent study has found that depression and anxiety can be contagious too.


The study was run by Rebecca Schwartz-Mette at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri. A total of 274 same sex friendship pairs were involved in the study, which took place over a six month period. There were two separate age groups, younger children from Grades 3 and 5 and adolescents from grades 7 and 9. The kids completed measures of depressive and anxiety symptoms, co-rumination, and self disclosure.


The researchers found that depression was contagious amongst them all and anxiety was contagious amongst girls and older boys.


Co-rumination a major factor


Further analysis of the data identified that co-rumination had a major influence on the contagious effect. Rumination literally means to chew something over for an extended period of time so co-rumination basically means discussing negative or depressive feelings in depth with someone else. The results suggest that over time, children who are exposed to persistent rumination somehow internalize these feelings.


“These finding highlight a previously unstudied risk factor for the development of internalizing symptoms in childhood” said Schwartz-Mette.


“Most important, a mechanism that helped to account for depression and contagion was identified”.


Home environment irrelevant


What this suggests is that regardless of a child’s home environment and whether it’s a stable and happy one or not, if they are constantly analyzing and discussing negative feelings, anxieties and emotions with their friends, their mental health may suffer as a result.


It is normal for children to have fears, worries and anxieties at certain times, however, when these symptoms become so severe that it is distressing enough to affect a child’s daily life then it’s time to seek help. For example, if a child is so anxious that they are terrified to go out, fall asleep, or be on their own, or if they become excessively clingy and tearful and there is no obvious reason for this, then it may be an idea to seek professional help.


Anxiety and depression in children


According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, there are around 3,000 youngsters suffering from an anxiety disorder in the UK alone. However, this isn’t the whole picture as there are many more that say nothing and basically suffer in silence.


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem to affect children. There are several different types of anxiety disorders and these are:


  • General Anxiety Disorder – constant worry about anything and everything – not specific to one thing


  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – anxiety related to being away from home or separate from parents or loved ones


  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – obsessive thoughts which may result in irrational compulsive rituals in order to deal with these thoughts, for example, obsessing about cleanliness and constantly hand washing


  • Social Phobia – intense fear of social situations, speaking in front of other people, participating in group events etc.,


  • Panic Disorder – recurring panic attacks


  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance techniques that can develop some time after an intensely traumatic event was experienced or witnessed.


Depression can affect anyone at any age including children. It’s shocking that as recent as thirty years ago, many mental health professionals believed that children were not able to suffer from depression because it was believed they were not emotionally mature enough to feel hopeless. We now know this is simply not true.


There is no single reason as to why anxiety and depression affects one child and not another but there are some pointers. For example, youngsters who are less confident socially may worry more. Children who have experienced a traumatic event or situation may feel more anxious. If a child is having difficulty at school or is being bullied they may feel isolated and depressed.


Most children cope very well with their fears and anxieties but for some, the feelings can become disabling and if not dealt with may persist into adulthood. Also, a child who is anxious is more likely to become depressed and a child who is already suffering from depression is more likely to suffer from anxiety too.


Childhood is supposed to be a happy time but unfortunately, this is not always the case. However, help is available if a child is suffering from depression and/or anxiety and it doesn’t necessarily mean taking prescription drugs. Talking Therapies are proving to be highly effective as they help a child make positive changes to the way they think and view a situation, which in turn helps them to cope with their fears and anxieties.



Brain changes in Adolescents maltreated as children

An interesting but small study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and recently published in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine has found that adolescents who experienced abuse or neglect as children, had less grey matter in the part of the brain that deals with emotions and impulses, although they had not been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.


MRI scans showed reductions in prefrontal cortex


The study involved 42 adolescents who completed questionnaires designed to measure their perceived experience of emotional or physical neglect or abuse. Using MRI scans, the researchers found that there were reductions in the prefrontal cortex in all cases where the youngsters reported that they had been maltreated.


“Though these kids do not have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, they are still showing physical signs of maltreatment,” said Hilary Blumberg, associate professor of psychiatry in the Child Study Center and the senior author of the study.


“The results could explain possible difficulties in school or future depression or behavioral issues.”


The children in this study will continue to be tracked to see if they do develop psychiatric disorders in the future.


Cerebellum and Insula


In the meantime, the researcher’s claim that other areas of the brain affected was linked to whether the child was male or female and whether they claimed they suffered physical or emotional abuse or neglect.


For example, neglect showed up in reductions in the Cerebellum, the part of the brain regulating pleasure and fear, and physical abuse showed up as a reduction in the Insula, a part of the brain controlling self awareness.


Everett Waters, professor of psychology at the State University of New York said that the results only show a correlation, they don’t prove that abuse or neglect in childhood leads to changes in the brain.


Gender differences


In girls the reduction was more concentrated in areas dealing with emotion and in boys the grey matter was reduced in areas to do with impulses. As depression is associated with an inability to regulate emotions, this findings highlights the fact that depression is higher in women than in men according to Jennifer Pfeifer, Assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon.


Both Pfeifer and Waters maintain that longer studies are required that will track children from infancy in order to understand the development of structural brain changes.


Some more resilient than others


Some adolescents, said Blumberg, seemed more resilient to the effects of maltreatment than others despite some physical symptoms. Pfeifer and her colleague Philip Fisher also from University of Oregon suggested two possible reasons for this.


One is that the changes in the amount of grey matter makes the adolescents more vulnerable to psychological problems and these just haven’t happened yet, and the other is that the adolescents who are resilient have found other ways of adapting to their circumstances.


“It is also possible that brain problems led to the kids being abused,” Waters said, “or more likely, that some third factor led to both the brain problems and the abuse.”


The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.



depression study


My name is Louise Atkins and I am part of a team of researchers conducting an ethically approved research project (11/LO/1287) at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College University of London.  We are currently trying to recruit depressed participants.

Our study aims to investigate the effect of a newly developed Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) training on depression. This is single session study and we pay for the participant’s time. If we identify that CBM training is efficacious in reducing depressive symptoms, this research will shed light on the development of a very cost-effective treatment in mental health.

I was wondering whether we could advertise our study on your website to help us recruit depressed participants?  Is there any procedure we would have to go through to be able to advertise our study on your website?

I would be very grateful if you could get back to me.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require more information  by email (

Best wishes,

Heavier children more likely to have social problems

In the Western world obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, and now more children are overweight than ever before. Apart from the obvious health problems associated with carrying round extra weight like an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, it seems mental health might be at stake too.

More likely to suffer emotionally and socially

A recent study carried out by Australian researchers found that obese 8 and 9 year olds were more likely to suffer emotionally and socially than other children who were not overweight reports Health Day News.

The children who had a high BMI (body mass index) before the age of 5 had up to a 20 percent greater risk of suffering socially by the time they reached the age of 9.

Which comes first?

One question that has often been asked is whether social problems lead to weight gain or whether it’s the other way round.

“There have been a number of studies over the past 5 to 10 years looking at whether or not obesity in young children and adolescents is related to emotional, behavioral and mental health problems,” noted Dr. Julie Lumeng, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about which direction that relationship goes in — does obesity cause children to be unhappy, or is it that unhappy children are more likely to become obese? Many people think it goes in both ways.”

According to the researchers being overweight may have contributed to their unhappiness perhaps as a result of being teased or socially ostracized.

However, the researchers also note that the effect of obesity may be different in countries where obesity levels are higher. In the Australian sample of 3,363 children only 4 or 5 percent were obese whereas in the United States the number of obese children is around 17 percent.

Fast foods and video games don’t help

These days with fast foods and video games children are not getting the kind of nutrition children had in the past and are also spending a lot more time slumped in front of a screen indoors instead of running around outside.

There is little doubt that children who are overweight are more likely to face problems with self esteem and to suffer health problems than children who are not. It has to be said that unless parents take more responsibility for their children’s weight earlier in life through improved nutrition and adequate exercise, the extra pressure on a child from carrying around extra pounds is bound to take its toll at some point either physically or mentally or both.