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Treatment of Depression in Children & Adolescents. Saundra Stock, M.D. USF Department of Psychiatry & Neurosciences Program Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency. Learning Objectives. Be able to recognize various symptoms of a major depressive episode

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treatment of depression in children adolescents

Treatment of Depression in Children & Adolescents

Saundra Stock, M.D.

USF Department of Psychiatry & Neurosciences

Program Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Be able to recognize various symptoms of a major depressive episode
  • Know the typical course of depression
  • Know common interventions for depression based on symptom severity
  • Learn 5 supportive strategies for primary care providers to implement in the office
  • Know the top 4 medications choices used to treat depression in youth
  • Understand the risk of suicide with medication treatment for depression
  • Affect 2.6 million youth ages 6-17 annually
  • 2.5% children (M:F 1:1)
  • 8.3% adolescents (M:F 1:2)
  • 40-80% experience suicidal thoughts
  • 35% of depressed youth will attempt suicide
  • Affects every facet of life - peers, family, school and general health
how depressive symptoms manifest
How depressive symptoms manifest?
  • Mood
    • Depressed or irritable mood
    • Mood labiality
  • Behavior
    • Kids may not verbalize sadness but show low frustration tolerance, social withdrawal or somatic complaints
    •  interests (stop sports activities etc.) c/o boredom
  • Vegetative symptoms
    • Fatigue or  energy
    • Sleep disturbance (often hypersomnia)
    • Wt change, appetite change
    • PMA or PMR
    •  concentration or indecisiveness
  • Cognition
    • Feelings of worthless/hopeless or inappropriate guilt
    • Thoughts of death or suicide
criteria for major depressive episode depressed mood or anhedonia 4 others
Criteria for Major Depressive Episode:depressed mood or anhedonia + 4 others
  • S -
  • I -
  • G -
  • E -
  • C -
  • A -
  • P -
  • S -
criteria for major depressive episode depressed mood or anhedonia 4 others1
Criteria for Major Depressive Episode:depressed mood or anhedonia + 4 others
  • S - sleep, insomnia or hypersomnia
  • I - interests
  • G - guilt, feeling worthless or hopeless
  • E - energy
  • C - concentration
  • A - appetite
  • P - psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • S - suicidal thoughts or recurrent thoughts of death
symptom variation based on age
Symptom variation based on age
  • At all ages – depressed mood, “I don’t care”, bored,concentration, insomnia &  SI
  • Children: > somatic complaints, separation anxiety, +PMA, phobias, sad affect, auditory hallucinations
  • Teens: > anhedonia, hopelessness, drug abuse/self destructive behavior or atypical depression pattern:

sleep,appetite, leaden paralysis (+PMR) & interpersonal rejection sensitivity

when do we see depression
When do we see depression?
  • Depression more common with  age but described even in infants
  • Bowlby - depression in institutionalized infants had sleep disturbance, feeding, listless, withdrawn
    • protest, anxiety, despair, detachment
  • Is depression in children & adolescents the same illness as in adults?
    • Recent studies show it is continuous with the adult disease with high relapse rates for those 1st episode in childhood
gathering history
Gathering History
  • Best to interview both parent and youth
  • Parents better at reporting behavioral disturbances & time course of symptoms
  • Youth better at reporting on mood/anxiety/sleep
  • Youth often have depressed mood or SI that parent is unaware of
  • Youth depression inventory-self admin scales
    • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
    • CES-DC (public domain)
    • BDI-II
    • PHQ-9 (GLAD-PC toolkit, public domain; 73% sensitivity & 98% specificity)
gathering history youth self report
Gathering History – youth self report
  • PHQ-2 questions scored on 3 point scale
    • “0” not at all and “3” nearly every day
  • Comparable to PHQ-9
  • In the past 2 weeks have you experienced:
    • Have you been feeling sad or depressed for the past 2 weeks?
    • Do you have a lack of pleasure in usual activities in past 2 weeks?
  • Score >3 sensitivity 74% and specificity 75%
gathering history1
Gathering history
  • R/O neglect, abuse physical or sexual
  • Recent stressors
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Unusual thoughts or psychotic symptoms prodrome to schizophrenia
  • Symptoms of mania now or past

 need for sleep, hypersexuality or grandiosity

  • FHx of suicides or bipolar disorder
  • Depression runs in families
  • Monozygotic twin 76% concordance, raised separately 67% concordance
  • Children with one depressed parent are 3x more likely to have MDD than children of non-depressed parents
  • Need to ask about family history of bipolar disorder
effects of depressed parents
Effects of depressed parents
  • Depressed children tend to have poor relationships (family and friends) & often have depressed parents.
  • Depression in parents associated with child depression (mothers fathers).
  • Depressed parents may over-report concerns (focus on negative aspects) or under-report (too depressed to attend to or observe child accurately)
  • Study by Hammen et al - children exposed to substantial stress, those with mothers with depression did worse than those with just the stress
  • STAR*D study children sx’s improved with Mom’s esp if Mom remitted within 3 months of tx


  • Mononucleosis
  • Influenza
  • TB
  • Hepatitis
  • Syphilis
  • HIV
  • Subacute endocarditis


  • Epilepsy
  • CVA
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Postconcussive states
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Wilson’s disease
differential cont d
Differential (cont’d.)


  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • orthyroid
  • parthyroid
  •  pituitary function


  • Lupus
  • Porphyria
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • Anemia
  • Etoh or drug abuse
  • Meds-steroids,OCP,cimetidine, BDZ, antiHTN, aminophylline
co morbid psychiatric disease and differential
Co-morbid psychiatric disease and differential
  • 40-90% co-morbid conditions – dysthymia, anxiety disorder, disruptive behavioral disorders, ADHD or substance abuse
  • Prediction of bipolar disorder - early onset,  PMR, psychotic features, FHx  bipolar, FHx psychotic depression, drug induced hypomania
work up
  • History
  • Physical exam
  • CBC, electrolytes, LFT’s, TSH, UA and B12, vitamin D
  • Consider UDS
  • Consider other labs/tests as indicated: folate, RPR, ESR, HIV, creatinine clearance, EEG
course of major depression
Course of Major Depression
  • Median duration of an episode 8 months in clinically referred youth, community samples 1-2 months
  • 70% of pts have a recurrent MDE within 5 years.
  • 20-40% will develop bipolar disorder
course of major depression1
Course of Major Depression
  • Prediction of relapse
    • early age onset
    • # previous episodes
    • severity
    • psychosis
    • lack of compliance
  • Poor prognosis

 symptom severity

    • Chronicity or  # relapses
    • Residual symptoms
    • Negative cognitive style or hopelessness
    • Psychiatric comorbidity
    • Low SES
    • Family problems
    • Ongoing negative life events
  • Depression untreated affects social, emotional, cognitive and interpersonal skills
  • Any episode 7-9 months is a long time in adolescent’s life
  • High risk for nicotine & substance dependence, early teen pregnancy, physical illness
  • As adults, higher suicide rates, more medical & psychiatric hospitalization, more impairment in work, family and social life
  • Psychoeducation
    • Parents
    • School
  • Individual psychotherapy
    • Supportive
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication
treatment goals
Treatment Goals
  • Response – significant reduction in symptoms or no symptoms for 2 weeks
  • Remission – period of > 2 weeks and < 2 months with few symptoms
  • Recovery** – absence of sx’s for > 2 months

**Recovery is the goal

treatment recommendations initial steps
Treatment recommendations: initial steps

Positive screening for MDE and subsequent diagnosis

Psychoeducation and treatment planning

Mild depressive to moderate sx’s:

Active support and monitoring for 6-8 weeks

Moderate to severe depressive sx’s:

Begin evidence based therapy or medication or both for 6-8 weeks

Severe depressive sx’s:

Start medication and referral

AACAP practice parameters 2007 and GLAD-PC 2007

  • All patients should receive
    • Information about symptoms and typical course with discussion (depression is a illness; not a sign of weakness; no one’s fault etc.)
    • Discussion of treatment options
    • Placing pt in sick role temporarily may be helpful and temporary school accommodations
  • No controlled trials with just psychoeducation, however, many pts improve with only education and supportive care
supportive treatment
Supportive Treatment
  • All patients should receive and may be all that is required for mild depressive sx’s
    • Meeting frequently to monitor progress
    • Active listening and reflection
    • Restoration of hope
    • Problem solving
    • Improving coping skills
    • Strategies for adherence
  • If not improving in 4 weeks, more to a more specific treatment
treatment options
Treatment Options

If has moderate to severe depression, start with more specific treatment OR if mild to moderate depression not improving after 4 weeks of supportive care (watchful waiting):

  • Individual psychotherapy
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication

Severe depression – start meds and other referrals

medication treatment options
Medication Treatment Options
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
  • Selective NE Reuptake Inhibitors
  • Other antidepressants
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Typical duration of medication treatment – 6 to 12 months after response present. Relapse high if stop within 4 months of symptom improvement.
medication ssris
  • *Fluoxetine (Prozac) - age 8
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • *Escitalopram (Lexapro) - age 12
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)

*FDA approved for the treatment of MDD under age 18

medication ssris1
Medication - SSRIs
  • Early studies - struggled with high placebo response rates, had to redesign to screen and have a waiting period to find subjects that did not respond to psychoeducation and supportive care
  • Emslie (1997) – 1st study showing SSRI efficacy for adol depression (fluoxetine)
    • 58% fluoxetine response rate vs 32% placebo
  • Emslie (2002) – 2nd study N=219 pts RCT received 20mg fluoxetine vs placebo for 8 weeks
    • 41% remission fluoxetine vs. 20% placebo
medication ssris treatment of adolescents with depression tads jama 2004
Medication – SSRIsTreatment of Adolescents with Depression (TADS) -JAMA 2004
  • 439 adolescents with mod to severe depression treated with meds/CBT/PLC or med+CBT 12 wks
    • 71% Fluox+CBT response
    • 61% Fluoxetine alone
    • 43% CBT
    • 35% placebo
  • 29% had suicidal thoughts at baseline
  • By week 12, suicidal thoughts down to 10% of pts
medication ssris2
Medication - SSRIs
  • Emeslie (2009) escitalopram vs. plc 12 weeks
    • Response rates 64.3% versus 52.9%,
    • Remission rates 41.6% for escitalopram and 35.7% for placebo
  • TORDIA (2008) N=334 pts 12-18 who had not responded to 12 wks of an SSRI switched to another SSRI, venlafaxine or added CBT along with medication change
    • Adding CBT gave better response rate (54.8%) as compared to either medication change alone
    • No difference between change to a different SSRI or venlafaxine
ssris dosing1
SSRIs - dosing
  • Typically once a day dosing in adults/teens
    • Morning for fluoxetine & sertraline
    • Evening for paroxetine, citalopram & escitalopram
  • Pre-pubertal children metabolize more quickly - may need twice daily dosing
  • Ensure an adequate trial before changing meds, maximum tolerated dose for at least 4-6 weeks
ssris common side effects
SSRIs – Common Side Effects
  • Nausea and diarrhea – 5HT receptors numerous in gut, need to titration slowly, this side effect remits with exposure
  • Headache – usually remits with time
  • Agitation, impulsivity or activation – 3-8% pts
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue or sedation (more common w/paroxetine, citalopram or escitalopram)
  • Sexual side effects – low libido or anorgasmia
ssris side effects of concern
SSRIs – Side Effects of concern
  • Increased bleeding time
  • Serotonin syndrome – flushing, diarrhea, autonomic instability, muscle tremors or spasms & confusion
    • do not use with St. John’s Wort, linezolid (Zyvox) or MOAIs. Caution with triptan migraine meds, ketorolac (Toradol) or propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Drug-drug interactions –
    • SSRIs inhibit P450 system in the liver slowing metabolism of other meds. Inhibit conversion of Tylenol 3 to morphine (P450 2D6)
  • Suicidal thoughts - 4% of pts
ssris predicting remission
SSRIs - predicting remission
  • 50-60% of patients get response with 1st SSRI
  • 30% of patients get into remission with 1st medication trial
  • Predictors of remission include
    • + FHx of depression
    • Early symptom response (within 4 weeks)
treatment of adolescents with depression tads
Treatment of Adolescents with Depression (TADS)
  • Follow up 5 years later N=196 pts (44.6% of original cohort)
  • By 2 years, 96.4% had achieved recovery
    • Predicted by early response to meds
  • By 5 years, 46.6% a recurrence
medication other

Few studies in newer antidepressants

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin) no RCTs in youth
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron) 2 negative RCTs
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor) 3 negative RCTs
  • Dualoxetine (Cymbalta)no RCTs in youth
  • Trazadone (Desyrel)
  • TCAs 11 DB-PC studies with TCA’s in adolescents  none more effective than placebo. Risk of cardiovascular adverse effectHR, AV block, QTc
medication summary
Medication Summary
  • Most evidence for SSRIs
  • Meds considered first line
    • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
    • Sertraline (Zoloft)
    • Citalopram (Celexa)
    • Escitalorpam (Lexapro)
  • Treat for 6-9 months once symptoms have improved
  • Goal to treat to remission (no sx’s for > 2 months)
  • CDC - 17% of adolescents think about suicide each year
  • Thoughts of death part of MDE
  • 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents about 2,000 deaths per year
  • 25% decline in suicide rate in 10-19 year range in past decade
  • Suicide attempts often impulsive in nature
fda warning about si and antidepressant meds
FDA warning about +SI and antidepressant meds
  • FDA reviewed 23 studies with 9 different meds - > 4,300 youth
  • NO SUICIDES in these studies
  • Adverse events reporting - SI or potentially dangerous behavior reported by 4% of pts on meds vs. 2% on placebo
  • 17 of 23 studies asked about SI - no new SI or worsening of SI, actually decreased during treatment
meta analysis of 27 rcts with ssris
Meta Analysis of 27 RCTs with SSRIs
  • Studies were for MDD, OCD and non-OCD anxiety
  • For MDD
    • NNT = 10
    • NNH = 112
  • More effective and less SEs when treating OCD or non-OCD anxiety

JAMA 2007

suicide and ssris
Suicide and SSRIs
  • FDA black box warning for risk of suicide for all ages with ALL antidepressants
  • Need to advise families about this risk and give crisis info
  • 2004 FDA recommended
    • Weekly contact the first 4 weeks
    • Every other week through week 12
    • As indicated after week 12
suicide and ssris1
Suicide and SSRIs
  • FDA changed black box warning from specific monitoring to more general one

All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior, especially during the initial few months of a course of drug therapy, or at times of dose changes, either increases or decreases.

general advice for families regarding si
General advice for families regarding SI
  • No firearms in home
  • Limit access to medication including over the counter meds
  • Remove access to parent’s medications
  • Remove razors from bathroom or other sharps
  • Increase supervision(e.g. keep doors open, limit peer contact to with adults present)
  • Importance of seeking help if suicidal thoughts develop or worsen
  • Crisis numbers (234-1234), emergency room resources and 911
what to do in the office during active monitoring period
What to do in the office during active monitoring period?
  • Rating scales (e.g. Child Depression Inventory, CES-DC or PHQ-9) to get baseline symptoms and track at follow up
  • Mood diary
  • Cognition/thought charts - negative thoughts in one column and a neutral thought in other column
  • Prescribe pleasant activities and exercise
  • Relaxation strategies
emotions thermometer
Emotions Thermometer
  • 10___________
  • 9 ___________
  • 8 ___________
  • 7 ___________
  • 6 ___________
  • 5 ___________
  • 4 ___________
  • 3 ___________
  • 2 ___________
  • 1 ___________

Mood Monitoring Chart – list at least 1 activity each time frame and rate mood during then using the emotions thermometer with10 best you ever felt and 0 the worst

common cognitive distortions
Common Cognitive Distortions
  • Overgeneralizing - mountains from molehills “I’ll never amount to anything”
  • Catastrophizing – “this is the worst thing could ever happen” or “I’ll never feel better”
  • Personalizing – “when the teacher yelled at the class to be quiet, it was all my fault”
  • Selective abstraction - focusing only on negative events “I did not get 100% on the test, only 98%”
  • Kitchen sinking – gets overwhelmed as adds more issues to current problem
things i can do to relax when upset identify ones that work for the youth
Things I can do to relax when upset(identify ones that work for the youth)
  • Running
  • Weight lifting
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing a sport
  • Listening to music
  • Dancing
  • Read
  • Do a puzzle
  • Crafts
  • Call a friend
  • Talk to someone
  • Take a hot shower
  • Imagine a relaxing place in my mind
  • Deep slow breathing
relaxation strategies
Relaxation Strategies
  • Deep breathing
    • Inhale for count of 5 & hold briefly
    • Exhale for count of 5
    • Repeat 5 times
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
    • Begin with feet, contract muscles for count of 5 and slowly release.
    • Move up the body through all muscle groups
  • Meditation – many CDs and Apps available
what to do in the office
What to do in the office
  • Use a rating scale to monitor sx’s
  • Mood diaries
  • Cognition charts - negative thoughts in one column and a neutral thought in other column
  • Prescribe pleasant activities and exercise
  • Relaxation strategies
other patterns of depression
Other patterns of depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Depressive disorder NOS
  • Adjustment disorder with depression
  • Few studies for any of these
  • Depressed mood more days than not with:
    • Poor appetite or overeating
    • Insomnia or hypersomnia
    • Low energy or fatigue
    • Low self-esteem
    • Poor concentration or difficulty w/ decisions
    • Feelings of hopelessness

1 year, not 2 for children (no MDE during that time)

Typically start treatment with psychotherapy due to chronicity

depressive disorder nos
Depressive Disorder NOS
  • A pattern of depressive sx’s that does not meet criteria for MDE or dysthymia
  • Treatment highly individualized based on FHx, stressors, sx presentation etc.
  • Examples:
    • Mood episodes that do not meet enough criteria for MDE (limited sx’s)
    • Mood episodes that are do not last 2 weeks, but recur regularly
    • Depressed mood nearly every day but not yet 1 year
adjustment disorder
Adjustment Disorder
  • Symptom emerge in the context of a clear stressor
    • acute or chronic stressor
  • Usually treated with talk therapy
  • May use meds if stressor chronic and unlikely to remit or not improving with therapy and stressor chronic
child psychiatry access program
Child Psychiatry Access Program
  • If you have questions about a patient you are treating, call the Child Psychiatry Access Program (866) 487-9507 to get a free consultation with a child psychiatrist
  • Major depression occurs in 8% of adolescents
  • Fast, easy screening scales available for primary care
  • Treatment begins with psychoeducation
  • Mild depression can respond to support
  • Moderate depression tx starts with talk therapy or meds. Reassess the plan at 8 wk intervals
  • Severe depression treatment likely to use meds or combination meds + therapy as first step
  • Things that can help while waiting for referral or in supportive period include:
    • Mood monitoring charts
    • Scheduling pleasant activities
    • Monitoring cognitions and feelings
    • Relaxation training
  • SSRIs are effective medications for MDD
    • Common SEs include GI upset, headache, agitation and sleep disturbance
    • Be careful of combining with other serotinergic medications
  • Monitor for suicidality
  • Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Depressive Disorders. Birmaher B and Brent D. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2007; 46(11):1503-1526
  • Treatment and Ongoing Management Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care (GLAD-PC): II. GLAD-PC Steering Group & Laraque RE Pediatrics 2007;120;e1313-e1326
  • GLAD-PC Toolkit
  • Evaluation of the PHQ-2 as a Brief Screen for Detecting Major Depression Among Adolescents Richardson LP. Pediatrics Vol. 125 No. 5 May 2010
  • A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of fluoxetine in children and adolescents with depression.Emslie GJ, Rush AJ, Weinberg WA, et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1997;54:1031–1037
  • Fluoxetine for acute treatment of depression in children and adolescents: a placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Emslie GJ, Heiligenstein JH,Wagner KD, et al: J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2002;41:1205–1215
  • Fluoxetine, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Their Combination for Adolescents With Depression: Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study (TADS) Randomized Controlled Trial March J. JAMA. 2004;292:807-820
  • Switching to Another SSRI or to Venlafaxine With or Without Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents With SSRI Resistant Depression: The TORDIA Randomized Controlled Trial. Brent D et al. JAMA. 2008 February 27; 299(8): 901–913.
  • Escitalopram in the Treatment of Adolescent Depression: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Multisite Trial. Emslie GJ et al. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2009;48(7):721-729.
  • Change in Child Psychopathology With Improvement in Parental Depression: A Systematic Review Gunlicks ML and Weissman MM J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2008;47(4):379-389.
  • Children of Depressed Mothers 1 Year After the Initiation of Maternal Treatment: Findings From the STAR*D-Child Study. Pilowsky DJ, et al. Am J Psychiatry 2008; 165:1136–1147)
  • Early Prediction of Acute Antidepressant Treatment Response and Remission in Pediatric Major Depressive DisorderTao RA. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2009;48(1):71-78.
  • Clinical Response and Risk for Reported Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts in Pediatric Antidepressant Treatment A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials Bridge JA, JAMA. 2007;297:1683-1696
  • The Treatment of Adolescent Suicide Attempters Study (TASA): Predictors of Suicidal Events in an Open Treatment Trial Brent DA, J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2009;48(10):987-996
  • Pharmacotherapy for Pediatric Major Depression. Rongrong T, Emslie G and Mayes T, Psychiatric Annuals, 2010; 40(4) 192-202.