Can a pediatrician diagnose depression in my child?

Louise E. Sivak, MD
While depression can be difficult to diagnose in a person of any age, pediatricians are generally attuned to the increase in mental health conditions in young people. Most pediatricians conduct screening (through a combination of written and verbal questionnaires obtaining information from children / teens and their parents) to identify symptoms and signs of depression. Many pediatricians work closely with pediatric psychologists and other mental health professionals to diagnose and treat their patients with depression.
Diana K. Blythe, MD

Pediatricians can diagnose depression in your child, but not all feel comfortable. Either way, your pediatrician is a good place to start. Pediatricians are a child's medical home and should be aware of any treatments they receive.

Depending on the severity of symptoms and whether medication or therapy are considered, your pediatrician may opt to refer to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other therapist. 

Janetta Kelly, MD
Janetta Kelly, MD on behalf of MDLIVE

A pediatrician may or may not be able to diagnose depression depending on the pediatrician's training and clinical experience. It is certainly appropriate to consult your child's pediatrician if you are concerned that your child is depressed. Although certain pediatricians may not be experienced or comfortable with making the diagnosis, your child's doctor can make a referral to a pediatric psychiatrist (MD/DO) or pediatric psychologist (PhD) for evaluation and management. 

Depression is usually in occurrence with another disorder (i.e., comorbid). For example, depression is comorbid with ADHD, behavior disorders, and substance abuse or chemical dependency. The reason this might be the case is that both disorders might share similar risk factors and/or one disorder could be the forerunner to or be a consequence of the other. Regardless, a pediatric psychiatrist or pediatric psychologist will be best able to discern these factors and implement treatment including if medication is appropriate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.