Category Archives: Children

Study Finds that Males are more Likely to Act on Suicidal Thoughts

A Canadian research compilation has determined that whereas it is the young women of Canada who are more prone to having suicidal thoughts above and beyond their contra gender peers, it is the males of this age who are more likely to act.

The study on teenage depression and suicide in Canada was taken on by psychiatrists at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

Other new data was correlated, and other determinants other than age and gender were found to exist in determining those who need to deal with depression. There is a link between ‘suicidality’ and age. Also however there is a link between ‘suicidality,’ the location of dwelling, and income level.

The psychiatrists set out with the intention of determining if the Canadian problem of youth depression is on a par with that held by their United States neighbours. The fact that Canada has a universal health care system on offer to its citizens was viewed pre study as a potential reason why there would be a difference between rates in the two states.

The assumption was that the healthcare system would be of benefit in some way to keeping the numbers lower north of the border.

Amy Cheung the author of the study stated, “Adolescents are very likely to experiences depression during their teenage years, and if you go to a classroom of 30 kids, you’ll find two or three may have experienced depression previously or are currently experiencing depressive symptoms.” She continued by saying that the majority of these children fail to receive treatment for depression of any kind. She went on to conclude how, “Depression itself can have a significant impact on their functioning in school and can be a big cause of disability and burden in the family.”

The study found that the highest incidence of attempted suicides was amongst young men from British Columbia with the highest number of respondents to the Psychiatrist’s survey reporting depression hailing from Quebec. It emerged that amongst the British Columbia young women almost a quarter had suicidal thoughts.

Baby can Feel Your Depression Mum

A possible connection between the mood of the mother during pregnancy, and the temperament of the child has been found by researchers at UCLA.

The researchers were working in conjunction with the Maternal Fetal Medicine department at Cedars Sinai Hospital. They have found a potential correlation between the child’s temperament after birth, and symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression in the mother during pregnancy.

It has been known for a long time that there is a connection between temperament and a person’s risk of developing of emotional disorders including depression and anxiety. The part that nature has to play in the process was not known however until this UCLA evaluation. The studies intention was to determine if there is a role to be played by nature above nurture in this domain of temperament acquisition.

247 soon to be mums were taken into the study and there were a range of measures used in the testing. The experiences of depression, anxiety and stress posed to the mother were detailed on each count. The hormone levels were another giveaway as to the stress levels they were under even if this was not evident through communication with the studied women.

All were evaluated at different points in the run up to the birth. The final evaluation was two months after the birth of the child, whereupon the child itself underwent tests.

Infant negative reactivity it was determined by the study was closely related to the stress levels of the mother. Measurements on the child were conducted using what is known as the ‘fear subscale of the infant Temperament Questionnaire.’

The nature nurture hypothesis was refined as a result of the research, whereupon a link between the nature was found to lead to a future risk of emotional disorders.

There was a positive note however in finding a potential solution. The study shows how if there is a more intensive prenatal emotional care system put in place then long term emotional health issues can be targeted head on at an earlier point, and the threat posed eliminated.

Boys will be Boys

The effect on antidepressants on our youth has been researched by The American National Institute of Mental Health and their findings demonstrate that they can be the cause for other mental disorders beyond depression to emerge, or at least be diagnosed.

It has been noted that antidepressant use can lead to ‘manic episodes’ or even that their ADHD medication can send them into a downward spiral of depression. Whereas bipolar disorder is most often diagnosed initially in consultation with a medical professional as is the case with adults, the child focused research they have conducted shows that the symptoms that lead to diagnosis of this sort with children may just be down to an emotional issue.

There has been hot debate for decades now as to whether there can be development of bipolar disorder in the child or not. It was believed that whilst the disorder can be ever present from birth it does not develop and show itself until the adolescent years of the child.

Often what is diagnosed as ‘episodes of manic nature’ are merely normal behaviours for young adults. It is a difficult time of development and overly sexual behaviour and erratic streams of though can be a natural occurrence in the child with no state of mental unwellness present. This makes diagnosing difficult yet this has not deterred doctors in diagnosing bipolar disorder in children with increasing regularity according to the latest findings of the Institute.

The difference between Bipolar and ADHD in children and teenagers

Bipolar disorder or manic depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder usually referred to as ADHD are very different conditions but often enough the symptoms in children and young adults can be very similar.

Symptoms of Bipolar

The symptoms of bipolar can be divided into depressive symptoms and manic symptoms.

According to the NHS symptoms that are characteristic of a depressive episode of bipolar include sadness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, a lack of interest in activities, memory problems, pessimism, sleeping too much, illogical thinking, and suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of a manic phase include euphoria, boundless energy, inflated sense of self importance, impulsive behaviour, delusions and hallucinations, illogical thinking, talking very quickly, needing very little sleep and having grand ideas or plans.

Symptoms of ADHD

Regarding ADHD, the NHS divides the symptoms into three categories:

Inattentiveness – having a short attention span, easily distracted, making careless mistakes, unable to follow instructions or carry out a task, poor listening skills and difficulty organising tasks.

Hyperactivity – can’t sit still, fidgeting all the time, excessive talking, always moving about

Impulsiveness – unable to wait for a turn, interrupting conversations, breaking rules, and little or no sense of danger

Getting a diagnosis

In general but not always, symptoms of ADHD usually become apparent before the age of 7 whereas in bipolar disorder it is often during adolescence.

However, the main difference between bipolar disorder and ADHD is that bipolar disorder is characterised by episodes of severe mood swings from mania to depression whereas ADHD is primarily an attention and behavioural problem.

What makes an accurate diagnosis more difficult in young people is that teenagers are going through an intensely emotional time with many changes occurring in their body. They will often be irritable and experience mood swings which most of the time are a perfectly normal part of growing up.

The best bet is to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional that is familiar with both ADHD and Bipolar.

Treatment

ADHD will normally be treated with medication and behaviour therapy whereas bipolar disorder is usually treated with antipsychotic drugs.

Interestingly, fish oil has been shown in many studies to be effective for both ADHD and bipolar disorder and indeed, people with mental health problems in general often have low levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and how to spot it

Most children will misbehave and defy their parents and others at some point in their lives either by answering back or by refusing to do something that is asked of them and this is considered perfectly normal. However, when the bad behaviour is extreme and persistent, it could be that they are suffering from a condition known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD.

ODD can be diagnosed when a child’s behaviour is so out of control that it becomes difficult to cope with and can disrupt home and school life. It is also common in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

So what are the symptoms of ODD?

ODD can be diagnosed when a child displays hostile, aggressive and defiant behaviour towards parents and other people in authority for a period of at least six months and this behaviour is not the result of something else, for example, medication or an underlying health problem. Symptoms include:

¨      Frequent angry outbursts and temper tantrums

¨      Constantly arguing with adults

¨      Breaking rules consistently

¨      Deliberately annoying others

¨      Blaming others for their own mistakes

¨      Being easily irritated or annoyed by others

¨      Behaving in spiteful and vindictive way

¨      Taking revenge on others

¨      Swearing and using obscene language

If ODD isn’t dealt with then it can develop into something known as Conduct Disorder. Symptoms of conduct disorder include physical aggression and hurting others, stealing, hurting animals, vandalism and other destructive behaviours.

No one knows what causes ODD but many experts believe it can be a combination of factors including genetics, biological and environmental factors. If you suspect that your child’s behaviour may be ODD then speak to a doctor in the first instance.

The problem with diagnosing ODD is that there isn’t a laboratory test that can identify ODD so a diagnosis is made purely by identifying the symptoms. However, a doctor is best able to determine if there is an underlying physical problem or indeed another reason that could be triggering the behaviour.

If no other reason can be identified then a doctor may refer you to another expert such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist that may be able to help. Treatment is usually in the form of psychotherapy or medication or a combination of both.

It’s interesting to note that children suffering from ADHD, depression and other mental health problems have often been found to have a low level of Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood and more and more research is highlighting how supplementation with fish oil can be helpful for ADHD and other conditions.

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Texting before sleep can raise the risk of mental health problems in kids

These days it is not unusual for a child to have their own mobile phone, a gaming console, computer or laptop, or a whole number of electronic gadgets, even very young children are now so familiar with electronic gadgetry they accept it as part of normal life. However, the result of a new study from the US sends a stark warning to parents.

Children who send text messages or spend time on the computer or other electronic device just before going to sleep are at a higher risk of suffering from psychological problems. This can manifest as disturbed and poor quality sleep, bad moods and difficulties with learning as well as symptoms of ADHD, depression and anxiety.

The study was carried out by scientists at JFK Medical Centre in Edison, New Jersey, USA and involved 40 youngsters with an average age of just over 14 years. Each of the youngsters’ night time habits was observed for a period of around 8 months from September last year to May 2010.

The research revealed that on average, the kids sent around 33 text messages or emails a night to 3.7 people, which means that over 3,400 text messages are being sent per person every month. The most common time for this to take place was between 10 minutes and 4 hours after going to bed.

There were some gender differences relating to the type of electronic indulgence involved with girls preferring to text or talk and boys preferring to surf the internet or play online games.

Nearly 77 percent of the kids involved in the study suffered from persistent sleep problems in that they took much longer to get to sleep which ultimately led to problems the next day.

The result was “irritability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood swings, anxiety, depression and poor cognitive functioning (thinking skills)” said the researchers.

“These activities are not sleep-promoting, like reading a novel or listening to music” said Dr. Peter G. Polos the study author for this research, “They stimulate the brain and depress normal sleep cycles”.

As a result the researchers are calling for parents to monitor their child’s activity at bedtime and limit their use of electronic gadgets at this time.

The findings of the JFK study were published as an abstract and will later be presented at a conference.

More than 2 hours in front of a screen causes psychological problems in kids

Does your child spend more than two hours a day watching television or playing on a computer? If so then they may be more likely to experience psychological problems than children who spend less time in front of a screen according to the results of a new study reports WebMD.

More than 1000 children aged between 10 and 11 took part in the study carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol in England UK.

The study revealed that those that spent more than a couple of hours a day watching television, playing on the computer, or a combination of both, were more likely to report having problems with friends and to say they felt unhappy.

As part of the study, the children had to wear accelerometers for a week which recorded their activity every 10 seconds whilst they were awake.

A questionnaire was also used to collect other data such as how much time they spent using the television or computer for activities that wasn’t connected to homework, and also about how they were feeling.

The well known “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire” was used to assess the kids’ psychological well being.

The answers produced a score that indicated whether or not the youngster was likely to have a problem, study researcher Angie S. Page, PhD, of the University of Bristol apparently told WebMD in an email.

Page also told WebMD that there was no evidence that sedentary time itself (which is basically time spent not engaging in any movement) is related to a negative psychological well being, it would appear that it’s all about what the kids are doing in that time, for example, if they spend hours sitting in front of a screen they are more likely to experience problems no matter how active they are the rest of the time.

Now a parent whose child is pretty active may not be too worried about the amount of time they spend on their computer or in front of the TV but perhaps they should.

Although children who were more active and who spent more than two hours in front of a screen did marginally better than those who were less active and spent the same time in front of a screen, this research suggests that physical activity isn’t going to fully make up for it.

The bottom line is that if you’re kids are glued to the box or engrossed in a computer game for more than a couple of hours a day, it is simply not good for their mental health.

Absent parents increases likelihood of mental health problems in kids

We already know that the early years of life are critical for instilling confidence in a child and for setting the child up to be a confident and capable adult and that naturally the parents have a significant role to play in shaping a child’s future. This is common sense.

Now senior psychologist Liu Huaqing with the Beijing-based Huilongguan Hospital is saying that children whose parents are absent or not close to them in the early years of their life are more likely to develop a mental health problem later on in life.

“The experience in the first six years is critical role in the formation of a child’s personality and the sense of security” Xinhua news quotes Liu as saying.

Lui isn’t just talking about parents who are not living with their children but about parents who are leaving their child on a regular basis whilst they go out to work.

This could potentially worry the huge numbers of working parents who leave their children with childminders of some sort, every day, often for a significant period of time.

According to Liu, it is important that mothers spend as much time as possible with their babies, particularly during the first couple of years of life.

These days it is not uncommon for women to want to return to work very soon after giving birth, either through choice or by necessity, and many will feel they have no other option than to send their child to a childminder, or to a nursery.

The Senior Psychologist says that parents should not be sending their child to boarding kindergartens. When parents do have to work, Lui says than when dropping a child off at a kindergarten, they should help their child feel more secure by reassuring them that they will be returning soon and that they’ll be picking them up later.

“That is a process to build mutual trust. Otherwise, children might feel abandoned” said Lui.

Of course any good parent will do that naturally.

Parents are often leaving their child whilst they go to work in order to give them a better standard of living and more opportunities in life. In some cases it may be that the parent is much happier by working and this rubs off on the child.

In any circumstances, if a child appears to be worrying excessively, is becoming anxious, or is feeling insecure and under confident, then it’s important to identify why, and to address it.

Could a 1 minute video, screen young kids for autism?

A new study carried out by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) has identified what could be a simple and inexpensive screening tool for detecting autism in young children.

Dr Karen Pierce from the University Of California San Diego School Of Medicine and her colleagues showed a group of young children a 1 minute video showing geometric patterns in the form of a computer screen saver on one side of a monitor, and a clip of children involved in social movement (yoga and dancing) on the other side.

The aim was to find out whether very young children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) focussed more on the geometric patterns or on social movement, and whether an ASD could be predicted.

The study, which has been published in the September 6th Edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, involved 110 young children between the ages of 14 and 42 months.

Of these children, 37 had an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and 22 were classed as developmentally delayed (DD) but did not actually have an ASD. The remaining children were free from autism and had a typical development (TD).

What the researchers found was that 40 percent of the children with ASD spent more time focussing on the geometric patterns than on social movement. Almost 10 percent of the DD kids focussed on the patterns more and just less than 2 percent of the kids with a typical development.

They also found that if a child spent more than 69 percent of the time focussing on the geometric patterns, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder could be predicted 100 percent of the time.

Eye tracking equipment was used to follow the line of gaze of the children and although the children did switch their gaze from one side to the other, those with ASD showed less eye movement when looking at the patterns and showed more frequent eye movement than the other kids when looking at the images children in the social video.

A follow up of 41 of the kids which took place 8 months later showed that the way they originally viewed the videos hadn’t really changed.

The results indicate that a preference for geometric patterns over social movement and how long they gazed at the geometric patterns could offer an inexpensive and easily used screening tool for ASD.

The study concluded that “a preference for geometric patterns early in life may be a novel and easily detectable early signature of infants and toddlers at risk for autism”.