Groundbreaking research out of the University of Iowa today has confirmed what many have long suspected: most babies are clinically depressed.

A shocking 83% of babies have been found to have the hallmark symptoms of a newly identified strain of depression. The numbers may be even higher among infants.

“When you think about it, it makes sense,” noted Steven Bernard, MD, part of a team that led the study. “Most people are able to cope with the struggles of life without breaking down crying multiple times a day. Babies are notorious for being unable to demonstrate these coping skills.”

In the study, to be published in the February issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Bernard and his team explain that most parents miss the critical warnings that their baby is depressed. “Parents assume their baby is simply crying, when it may actually be a cry for help. Crying more than once a day is a sign of a serious inability to integrate with the expectations of normal, healthy life in society.”

While the causes of the disorder are unclear, the symptoms are not. Crying, incontinence, and low attention span are hallmarks of extreme and chronic depression. One theory about the causes of the disorder prompted researchers to tentatively dub this strain of depression Womb Exit Trauma Disorder, or WET-D.

The solution? Medication.

“Babies are notoriously undercommunicative about their feelings,” Bernard says. “They are unlikely to respond to talk therapy as they tend to have underdeveloped language skills.” Resistance to the development of language skills may, itself, be a further complication of depressive disorder. “When people don’t want to talk about their feelings, that’s a warning sign. Having to act out on emotions instead of using words is a red flag.”

Tragically, many parents may not get many warnings before it’s too late. New research is attempting to link this disorder to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). “Babies may actually be exhibiting a form of suicide,” Bernard warns. “Further study is needed to demonstrate a causal link between WET-D and SIDS, but it looks promising.”

In the meantime, parents can watch for the warning signs and request a battery of new drugs just approved by the FDA. Bernard and his team urge parents to be patient when trying medication. “Babies may not always react right away. That’s not a sign that medication doesn’t work, but that the dosage may have to be increased.

“The worst thing you can do for your baby is let the symptoms of WET-D go unchecked. If your baby continues to cry repeatedly, it’s a sign that more medication is required.”


(Cross-posted at The Mep Report.)