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Depression is a problem often associated with adults, but young children can have the condition, too. In recent years, researchers have begun to understand how depression manifests in preschoolers, what it does to the brain, and how it may affect their future mental health.

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Bipolar illness was once referred to as “manic-depressive” illness. It’s usually a lifelong disorder, characterized by episodes of abnormal, often persistent, highs, and abnormal, often persistent, lows. The highs are characterized by a “too good” mood, irritability, increased energy, increased interest in activities, decreased need for sleep, and sometimes, delusions— some people who are manic actually believe they can fly or believe they have super powers.

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The teenage years are awkward. From cracking voices to gangling arms and legs, teenagers struggle to adjust to their ever-changing bodies. Those physical changes are accompanied by even more dramatic emotional changes. Teens are almost expected to be sullen, moody, and rebellious. They often engage in risky behaviors, forgetting that they are not invincible.

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Each year about 15 million people in America experience the debilitating effects of depression. About one patient in seven doesn’t respond to treatment. Fritz Henn, M.D. Ph.D., is working hard to solve this problem. He’s a professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Council.​

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There are three things that we usually look at to tell the difference between abnormal anxiety that is part of an anxiety disorder, and the anxiety that children, or really anybody, experiences as a normal part of life. The first and probably the most important thing we look at is whether there is impairment—anxiety that interferes with a person’s ability to function and leads to avoidance.

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