New Somatic Treatments for Child and Adolescent Depression

Kathryn R. Cullen, Laura E. Padilla, Victoria N. Papke, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Depression is a common clinical problem in youth, with prevalence increasing significantly during the adolescent period. Although several evidence-based treatments are currently available for treating depression in adults, only a subset of these have been investigated in a pediatric sample. Unfortunately, even well-established, first-line interventions do not lead to sufficient treatment response for many children and adolescents suffering from depression. However, recent research has been conducted in the area of somatic treatments for youth with depression. This review focuses on current (past 3 years, including published results and ongoing studies) research on somatic treatments for adolescent depression in the following categories: psychopharmacology, nutraceuticals, interventions implicating motor and sensory systems, and neuromodulation. Findings: Results from recent randomized, controlled trials testing psychopharmacological options suggest that while antidepressants that have been recently approved for adult patients are safe and tolerable in children and adolescents, none have yet outperformed performed placebo in efficacy. Nutraceuticals, motor-sensory interventions, and neuromodulation techniques present safe and promising results, but few have been tested against controls to support effectiveness over current treatment options. Summary: This review of research on pediatric depression treatment from the past 3 years highlights some disappointments (negative results following some of the well-designed clinical trials) and gaps (preliminary studies in need of follow-up with robust methodology) but also some promising directions in research of the efficacy of these treatments in a pediatric sample. We offer suggestions for future research including consideration of treatment timing, sequencing, the role of symptom severity in directing treatment selection, the potential value of combined treatments, consideration of how to best account for high placebo response rates, and the incorporation of neurobiological assessments to examine mechanisms and biomarker predictors of treatment response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-400
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Adolescent
  • Depression
  • Neuromodulation
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Treatment


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