Dealing with the Two Most Common Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Young Adults: Anxiety and Depression

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Dr. Kiran Lulla

BURLINGTON, MA—If you have children, teens and young adults at home, this is a must-attend talk at the 7th Annual Health, Fitness & Wellness Expo on Sunday, March 10, at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA.

Dr. Kiran Lulla, MD, Medical Director at Boston Children’s Hospital and at Metro West Medical Center, will discuss anxiety and depression in children at the Expo.

“Anxiety and depression are the two most common psychiatric disorders in children, teens and young adults globally,” says Dr. Lulla, who has helped patients and their families with transitions, relationship issues and more as a Board-Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist for more than 25 years. “Anxiety affects 1 in 4 individuals and depression affects 1 in 6 individuals in this broad category. The most commonly affected are usually females. Girls : Boys ratio is 3:1.”

As Medical Director at Boston Children’s Hospital and at Metro West Medical Center, Dr. Lulla has supported families through these various issues. She has an active faculty appointment at both Harvard University and Tufts University.

“Anxiety seems to be reported more in elementary and middle school grades, while depression is seen more in high schoolers, particularly 9th through 12th graders,” says Dr. Lulla, who as a parent of two teenagers is aware of the pressures that children and teenagers face today.

Through her faculty roles, Dr. Lulla has collaborated with mental health clinicians and other providers and absolutely loves using a team approach when helping individuals. Dr. Lulla is actively involved with teaching Child Psychiatry to Psychiatry residents.

“There are few epidemiological studies about the specific prevalence rates in Indians and South Asians. These studies reveal that the South Asians as a large community have slightly lower rates than US population.  The prevalence rate for anxiety and depression in Indians has been slightly lower, but is now rising,” Dr. Lulla says.

She said 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment.

“Untreated childhood anxiety typically continues into adulthood and leads to an increased risk of depressive disorders. Anxiety or depressive disorders in adolescence predict a 2-3 times increased risk of anxiety or depression in adulthood,” Dr. Lulla warns.

What are the symptoms?

“The initial presenting symptoms for both usually are of a physical nature- headaches, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, tingling and numbness. Most of the times, initially, these symptoms are either overlooked or brought to the attention of a primary care physician,” said Dr. Lulla. “Psychiatric symptoms manifest themselves eventually – sadness, impaired school performance, poor school and work attendance, withdrawal from all kinds of otherwise pleasurable activities, sleep disturbances, impaired eating, and even worse, self-medicating with substances/drugs, self-harm and suicidal thinking.”

Dr. Lulla said that these illnesses can be prevented and treated.

“Ruling out medical causes for these symptoms is the first step. Introducing and continuing basic sleep and exercise routines, engaging with their families, limiting use of technology helps with prevention,” said Dr. Lulla. “Beyond this, psychotherapy can be helpful. Medication may be a useful supplement – a child and adolescent psychiatrist can help get the right medications prescribed.”

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