Are Antidepressants Safe For My Child To Take?  

Children’s emotional, psychological, and social needs change rapidly as they grow up. Because developmental happens much faster during the beginning stages of life, common mental health issues may affect young people much differently than older adults. Anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, and behavioral disorders are examples of diagnoses that present across the lifespan but heavily impact a child’s ability to function in daily life, interact with others, and achieve academic success.

While ADHD is the most common mental health condition in children, depression follows closely behind, with, according to the Centers for Disease Control, over 2 million children in the U.S. carrying the diagnosis. For some, treatment involves medication, outpatient or inpatient therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of all three.

Medication can provide faster relief than other treatments, making it a preferred option for many parents and their children. But can children take psychiatric medicines like antidepressants? Yes! Here are some facts you need to know before working with a provider to prescribe your child antidepressant medication.

First, let’s talk about what antidepressants are.

What are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications prescribed by healthcare professionals to help reduce emotional distress, sadness, or mood changes by targeting specific neurotransmitters in the brain. They also help regulate mood and address symptoms like persistent sadness, irritability, or changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

When prescribing these medications for children, our practice at Balance Psychiatric Services is to carefully assess individual symptoms, medical history, and potential risks and make dosage adjustments to optimize treatment efficacy and minimize adverse effects.

Potential Side Effects of Antidepressants for Children

Concerns about side effects are a common reason why many parents question whether children can (or should) take antidepressants. And while most people experience some sort of aftereffects from taking any kind of medication, these effects look different for everyone. Children may experience any of the following while taking antidepressants:

Because these side effects impact every child differently, providers typically start kids out on an extremely low dose to ensure it’s not going to affect them negatively. If starting a new medication or increasing the dose of an existing one seems to do more harm than good, contact your doctor as soon as possible to review any changes that need to be made.

What Conditions Do Antidepressants Treat in Children?

Antidepressants treat a plethora of mental health conditions, not just depression or depressive symptoms. Here’s a list of some of the most common:

Deciding on Antidepressants for Your Child

Choosing medication is a big decision for many parents. If you’re having difficulty whether antidepressants are a good option for your child, we encourage you to first talk with your provider to learn more about them. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about the unknowns that come with taking a new medication, especially if you’ve never done so before. It often requires trial and error, so you may be reluctant to navigate this process or feel overwhelmed by the available options.

However, the more you learn, the more informed you can be about your child’s mental health treatment. Our providers talk at length with parents about their concerns and provide plenty of psychoeducation about the diagnosis and medications prescribed. We also explore alternate treatments, meaning we work with therapists, primary care doctors, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals to create a holistic treatment plan that accurately reflects your child’s symptoms and psychiatric needs.

Invest in Your Child’s Mental Well-Being With Balance Psychiatric Services

Investing in your child’s mental well-being is worth it; they inherit the responsibility of shaping the future of our world. Early mental health intervention not only provides a foundation for a healthier adulthood but also reduces the risk of passing down generational trauma.

At Balance Psychiatric Services, we know how important it is for your child’s mental health to be treated by someone who cares. All our providers focus on providing personalized, holistic, and compassionate care by working with you and your child to find a treatment plan that efficiently reduces symptoms interfering with their ability to live happy, healthy lives.