Childhood depression vs. bipolar disorder

Learn about: Childhood depression vs. bipolar disorder from Kenneth Duckworth, MD,...
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Childhood depression vs. bipolar disorder

Well first of all you have to get comfortable with the concept that children actually can have depression. And that children's depression looks different than adult depression. The kids who are the frequent flyers in the nurse's office at school, who are expressing distress through headaches and stomachaches. Those kids are at risk of being depressed. And they may not be able to say, I'm sad. They may show you instead of tell you. So one of the important things about getting a comprehensive evaluation of a child and looking at every aspect of their well being - their family, their strengths - is try to understand if they have a clinical depression or if they're just expressing stress. The next, more sophisticated level, is to figure out if there's a family history of bipolar disorder because that raises the risk that the child will have bipolar disorder. That's particularly important because one of the treatments for childhood depression and adolescent depression is anti-depressants. It's not indicated for every child. And it's not the only treatment for any child in getting an comprehensive evaluation. But anti-depressant therapy can make bipolar disorder worse. So it's a complicated area, and this is why I think it's important for people to get a good comprehensive evaluation, and also to better understand their own family history.

Learn about: Childhood depression vs. bipolar disorder from Kenneth Duckworth, MD,...


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Kenneth Duckworth, MD

Psychiatrist, Harvard Professor & Medical Director for NAMI

Ken Duckworth, MD, serves as the medical director for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is triple board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Adult, Child and Adolescent, and Forensic Psychiatry and has extensive experience in the public health arena.

Dr. Duckworth is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University Medical School, and has served as a board member of the American Association of Community Psychiatrists. Dr. Duckworth has held clinical and leadership positions in community mental health, school psychiatry and now also works as Associate Medical Director for Behavioral Health at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Prior to joining NAMI in 2003, Dr. Duckworth served as Acting Commissioner of Mental Health and the Medical Director for Department of Mental Health of Massachusetts, as a psychiatrist on a Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) team, and Medical Director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.

Dr. Duckworth attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with honors and Temple University School of Medicine where he was named to the medical honor society, AOA. While at Temple, he won awards for his work in psychiatry and neurology. He also has a family member living with mental illness.

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