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My 11 year old is angry
May 22, 2003

MY son has had issues with his anger for 2 years and we recently had the school psycologist do a study that revealed that all the adults in his life see him as depressed and he saw himself as having an anxiety based on the questions that we answered. (150+) He suggested that we seek medical treatment to include medicating for mood disorders. How do know if his mood swings are based from depression or anxiety and what medications are used for children safely? My husband is concerned that medication will stunt his growth pysically and/or mentally. Is this possible?

Response from Dr. Horwath

Your son needs an evaluation by an experienced child psychiatrist. Testing by a school psychologist is helpful as a first step in determining whether a problem exists. But a diagnostic evaluation needs to be done by a psychiatrist, who has experience with children.

It is often difficult to differentiate between depression and an anxiety disorder. This is because symptoms of anxiety are quite common in depressed children, and children with severe anxiety disorders will sometimes develop depressive symptoms in response to the difficulties caused by the anxiety disorder.

In any case, once evaluated, an appropriate treatment could be recommended for your son. This may include individual psychotherapy, family meetings, and/or medication.

Your husband's concerns about the risks of using medications in children are understandable. However, several antidepressants have been found to be effective in the treatment of major depression in children, and are also considered safe. The antidepressants that have been studied and approved for usein children with depression include Prozac and Paxil. Studies have shown the effectiveness of Prozac and Paxil in the treatment of depressed children > 8 years of age. Zoloft is also used to treat depressed children, but currently has FDA approval for use in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (an anxiety disorder), but not for depression.

I do not know of any evidence that these medications impair physical or mental development in children. On the other hand, prolonged or severe depression and anxiety disorders in children can cause lasting problems in psychological development.



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