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Calls for a rethink on how depressed kids are treated

Photo: Treatment for depressed kids needs rethink
A research review reveals widespread cognitive difficulties in young people with depression, leading to calls for a rethink on how they are treated.

Young people with depression are more likely to experience cognitive difficulties such as poor concentration, memory and problem solving skills that may impact their response to standard treatments, a study has found.

The researchers say the findings suggest cognitive behavioural therapy or talking therapy might not be the most suitable or effective treatment for teens with depression because of their inability to engage or focus.

"It is important to look separately at the impact of depression on the cognitive abilities of young people as there is a significant period of brain development that occurs during adolescence and continues until around age 25," said Dr Kelly Allott at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth.
"This period of brain development enhances multi-tasking abilities, problem-solving capacity and the ability to process complex information so it's to be expected that depression will have a different impact on the cognition of young people than it does in adults," said Dr Allott.

Cognitive issues are a well-known feature of depression in adults, but have not been well understood among youth with depression, said Dr Allott.

To gain a greater insigh, researchers at Orygen and the University of Melbourne reviewed 23 previously published studies that looked at cognitive functioning in young people with depression.

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychology Review on Tuesday, revealed widespread cognitive difficulties in young people aged 12-25 years who have depression.

They included maintaining attention, recalling verbal and visual information and verbal reasoning - and they appeared to be heightened for those on anti-depressants.

Dr Allott says it's important these vulnerable teens are reassured and given hope about their recovery.

"Young people with thinking difficulties such as poor concentration or memory can often feel a sense of worthlessness that feeds into their depression symptoms," she said.

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