Two Cases of Childhood Depression

depression title image tcm

Homeopath Diderik Finne shares two cases of childhood depression, a nine year old who is withdrawn and desires death and an eleven year old who cries incessantly and feels forsaken.

Depression affects about 2% of preschool and school-age children in the US, according to MedicineNet. Conventional treatment uses psychotropic drugs that do not cure and must therefore be continued indefinitely. The following two cases demonstrate the power of homeopathy to resolve this serious condition.

“I wish I were dead”

On a cold day in February, 2014, a worried mother brought her nine year old son to see me. I had treated him two years earlier by phone for an acute issue but never saw him in person. Damian is thin, small and pale, with long hair. He keeps his overcoat on as he enters the room and sits down. He does not speak. There is a palpable depression in the air as he sits silently, withdrawn into himself.

“It’s been a long road,” his mother begins, trying not to cry. “I got a divorce when he was four. His dad was not nice. He goes to his dad’s house every weekend. Damian doesn’t like his dad, who makes him take care of his little sister. His dad doesn’t really listen to him or pay attention to him. He’s harsh, yells and watches violent movies. Damian can’t ask his dad for anything. Damian has been home schooled except for one semester.  We came to a part of the curriculum that he didn’t like, and I asked him to do it, he started crying. He said he wanted to kill himself.”

“He’s very social, loves people. I’ve tried to arrange playdates and activities for him. He needs more friends.  He’s been vegetarian since age five, very strict. He says meat tastes bad, smells terrible and looks gross. He gets dizzy. He’s prone to motion sickness when riding in a car. He has a mild headache every day, one-sided in the forehead, but it never stops him from doing anything.”

I ask Damian directly what kind of weather he prefers. “I like the cold,” he says. “Summer is too hot—I sweat too much, and it makes me sick.”

I ask about his dad. “There are things about him that make me sad. He just watches movies. He lies a lot.”

His mother adds, “Damian has always reacted in a big way to every little injury. He over-reacts; he’s sensitive to pain. He used to be accident prone, clumsy. That’s improved by 75%.  He’s very cautious around knives. He loves music. He wants massage every night—he gets knots in his neck and back.  He’s a night owl. He wants to eat at night. He doesn’t eat before events, such as a chess tournament or going to a friend’s house.”

Analysis

My previous treatment of Damian was for an acute episode of hives, which was resolved with Urtica urens. Later I prescribed Causticum as a constitutional, without result. Some important points from the phone interview, two years earlier:

  • “He’s a very happy child, extremely intelligent and sensitive. We have a very good relationship; he can tell me everything. The other day he said he wished he were dead, because of his dad. He says, ‘I don’t have a father.’ His father won’t listen to him.”
  • “He’s a late bloomer, has done everything late: walking, talking, potty training. He won’t do anything till he’s completely ready. I never did potty training; he refused to wear underwear. At 4 he said, ‘I’m ready to start wearing underwear today.’ He never had an accident.
  • “He has long hair, doesn’t want to cut it. Everyone thinks he’s a girl, but he’s boyish. It doesn’t seem to bother him. He doesn’t dress like a girl. He likes violent games (in imaginary play with his friends). He doesn’t like violent video games.”
  • “He’s an avid chef. We watch the cooking channel.”
  • “He loves running. He does not tire easily and does not seem to get cold.”

There is an odd paradox here: the mother describes Damian as happy and social, but even two years ago he was talking about wanting to be dead. Clearly the father plays a central role in this paradox. When Damian is with his mother, doing what he likes, everything is fine. When he is with his father, on the other hand, nothing is right, nor can he find any way around this problem.

I did not repertorize this case, because the medicine seemed clear. Kent says:

“You take away a man’s hope, and he has nothing to live for, he then wants to die. Such, it seems, is the state in this medicine.”

I could have easily found the remedy by repertorization, of course, by looking at the capital remedies in the following three rubrics:

  1. Desires death: AUR, AUR-M, LAC-C, NAT-S, SULPH
  2. Sensitive to pain: ACON, AUR, CHAM, COFF, HEP, HYPER, IGN, LACH, LYC, MED, NIT-AC, NUX-V, PHOS, PLAT, PSOR, PULS, SEP, SIL, STAPH, TARENT
  3. Talking, indisposed: AUR, BRY, CARB-AN, COCC, GLON, NAT-M, PH-AC, PHOS, PLAT, STAPH, SULPH, VERAT, ZINC

Rx Aur 200C (Boiron), diluted in 2 drams of spring water, one dropperful per day beginning Feb. 24, 2014

Follow-up:

Just a few hours after the consultation the mother emailed me. “Thank you so much for the appointment today. Damian perked up right away! He really liked you and I suppose that remedy worked right away. I forgot to ask you how to administer the remedy. How often? How many times per day?”

Email three days later:

“I am so amazed at Damian’s rapid improvement.  He remains happy and normal!”

Mother’s consultation three weeks later:

Mother reports, “Damian has been fine ever since that first dose!”

(I prescribe Calc phos for mother.)

Email three months later:

“Damian and I are doing well.  I’d like to order another Aurum Met and Calc Phos, so we can keep taking them.”

Phone follow-up a few days after last email:

Damian has an acute intestinal flu. “It started yesterday with vomiting of mucus, then bile. Diarrhea began in the middle of the night and continues. It started medium brown then became liquid yellow.  His anus is excoriated. He is not nauseous and does not feel cold or hot. He has no appetite and didn’t eat anything yesterday. Today he had a piece of carrot. He is not thirsty. Before the vomiting he had eaten a bunch of tomatoes, green onions and cucumber. He threw up the tomatoes and green onions.

He is needy, clingy, wants me to massage his foot or hands. He wants me to do a [Reiki] healing. Anus hurts all the time, and he is crying out in pain. He slept the whole day yesterday and has been lying down all today.

I gave him Ipecac 30x three doses and Aurum two times, as well as a combination of cell salts.”

I did not prescribe anything for this episode, as it seemed likely that it would resolve spontaneously, which it did.

Phone call four months after initial prescription:

“In general, he’s totally fine. I give him a dropperful of Aurum once a day Monday through Friday [he is with his father on weekends].

Phone call after seven months

“Damian started school last week and is doing fine.”

[This is a huge step, because previously he insisted on being home schooled and could not tolerate being separated from his mother.]

Phone call after eleven months:

“Damian played in chess tournament on Sunday and won!  Now I just give him a dose of Aurum once in a while. He’s been totally fine, too.”

Phone call 14 months:

“Damian had a fever last night. I gave him Belladonna and repeated it twice today, but he feels worse. He told me not to go; he wants me to be with him. He has lethargy and malaise and is not moving much. He felt dizzy on waking up. The fever comes and goes. He is not thirsty and has no appetite. He is quiet, not irritable. He has been reading all day and keeps himself covered. There are no skin eruptions.”

I prescribed Pulsatilla, with no result. The next day Damian was brought to the pediatrician, who diagnosed an ear infection. I prescribed Calcarea sulphurica, and he slowly improved.

Phone call 22 months after initial prescription

“Damian has a cough that hurts his ribs. The cough is worse at night. There is mucus in his chest. It started five days ago as a slight cough, then developed into a sore throat, which went away. It doesn’t hurt him to swallow. His lips are dry. He is not thirsty. Appetite reduced; energy normal. His emotional state is normal.

He is naturally sedentary, likes to read and play chess. Last night he had a big headache on going to sleep, felt terrible. No fever. He gets to the point of coughing so many times in a row that he gasps for breath.  The cough is not worse from lying down.”

I prescribed Belladonna, without result, then Hepar sulph, which worked.

Email two and a half years after initial prescription:

Damian had a problem with insomnia in anticipation of a chess tournament. “I gave him his remedy (Aurum metallicum) last night, and he slept all night and into the morning.  I let him sleep late and go to school late so that he could catch up on sleep, so the remedy seemed to work.  I just gave it to him again tonight, so we shall see how this niht goes.

We are going out of town for a chess tournament that he is playing in (I’m wondering if his insomnia is unconscious stress about this tournament…), and if he still has insomnia when we get back next week, I will contact you.”

There was no return of the insomnia, but a month later Damian got another bout of fever, headache and sore throat, which resolved spontaneously.

Email three years after initial prescription:

“Today Damian vomited twice, clear with a little mucus.  He’s had nothing to eat today.  Immediately after the vomiting he got a very bad headache and mild fever.  He’s been clingy, whiny and sleeping/resting.  He is not thirsty; he’s just had a little water today.  I gave him three doses of Pulsatilla and just now one Nux Vomica.  His main complaint is his headache, and I am seeking a remedy for his headache.  This all came on suddenly this morning.  He’s coughing slightly.

Also, the Pulsatilla did help him feel better, and he was able to fall asleep after the first and second doses, which were 15 minutes apart.  But it didn’t help his headache.”

I prescribed Rhus tox.

Email three days later:

“The Rhus tox has helped Damian, and his flu symptoms have been getting better, but now he has a really bad cough as his main symptom.  It’s spasmodic and hurts his ribs, stomach, chest, and throat when he coughs.  Do you suggest another remedy?”

I prescribed Kali phos, with good results.

Discussion

It has now been almost five years since the initial prescription of Aurum, and Damian has never looked back. Damian has somehow worked through his depression and found a way to be happy in spite of his father.

If the criterion of a simillimum is that the remedy should work for every acute condition that arises, then Aurum does not quite pass the test. In the years since the remedy was prescribed, I have had to resort to a variety of acute prescriptions for recurring upper respiratory and intestinal infections. For this reason I tend to doubt that Damian was born in an Aurum state and has needed the remedy all his life. Rather, I feel that he was pushed into an Aurum state by life circumstances, and that eventually he will need a second constitutional prescription. That said, Aurum was tremendously successful in pulling him out of a tough place and has continued to support him over the years. It has imbued him with a sense of his own value, independent of the respect (or lack thereof) shown by his father.

From an energetic perspective, all the metals are “cold,” especially those of the sixth series, such as Aurum, Mercurius and Plumbum. Chinese medicine recognizes cold as a pathogenic entity that can enter any of the meridians and obstruct the flow of qi. Aurum seems to correspond to cold entering the heart channel, which affects the passion to live and enjoy life.

Case 2

The Weeping Boy

In September of 2018 a mother asked for help regarding her 11 year old son, Nick. “The last 3 years or so my son has been having an emotional reaction to being an only child,” she explained in an email. “He will cry, sob, almost like he is having a panic attack. It’s really taken over his daily thoughts for so long. Last year also I lost my mom, and he was really close to her, and it added to his trauma. He is a very intelligent, sensitive child, very aware of the ways of the world, and he has fears of his parents getting older, getting sick and passing, and he being alone. He always worries how he alone is going to be able to handle both his parents someday getting older/sick, and he fears losing us. He also is sad that he can’t experience having a sibling to grow up with, or when he grows up and has kids they won’t experience having an uncle/aunt, and he feels alone and different from everyone around him who has siblings. ‘It’s not fair,’ he says. He worries about his grandfather, who is now bedridden. There is more we can elaborate on when we meet. He is amazing because he tries so hard to fight through his feelings and doesn’t shirk his responsibilities of school, school work, activities (soccer), and Sunday school, etc. He is always begging us for a sibling and asks us to promise that we are always trying. No matter what we say to help him through it or talk him out of it, he is stuck.

Because of this, the last two years I have been pushing my husband to attempt to have another baby via donor egg, as I am past fertility stage (in menopause). But my husband is against it because of course our age, risks to my health, etc. (and he doesn’t think it would solve the problem). All things I have thought about ad nauseam but willing to do it anyway. I’ve been stuck with this idea and stuck in general how to help my son. My heart hurts for him. And it seems like doom and gloom in our home.”

When I met Nick in person I was struck by how sad he was. He seemed the picture of grief. I invited him to say something about his feelings, and he only mumbled a few indistinct words. He sighed frequently. I asked about his maternal grandmother. “She was always nice to me,” he said, “gave me presents at Christmas and my birthday.” Yes, he missed her.

The mother did most of the talking. As the interview progressed Nick was overwhelmed with emotion and began crying non-stop.

Analysis

Many patients cry during consultation, but I had never seen anyone quite that sad before. My first thought was Ignatia, which I gave in a 200C potency. Afterwards, Nick did seem calmer, and the tears stopped. I prepared a bottle of Ignatia 200C diluted in water and gave instructions to the mother to give a dropperful as needed.

Mother’s email next day:

“Just to update, Nick stopped crying for a while after our session. We came home, he ate something, kicked some football, and then I asked him to take a nap, as we had tickets to a soccer match (he’s so passionate about soccer we thought it will cheer him up). After he woke up, we got ready, but in the car and pretty much all the way through the game he cried and was very anxious. I gave him a dose of medicine before bed. This morning he woke up teary; I gave him another dose, and he went to school.”

Phone call at four days:

“This week was pretty rough even with the medicine. He has been crying all the time. He is so fearful about being alone in this world, feeling life is incomplete, hurting so much in his heart.”

In response to my questions the mother related that Nick is warm blooded, has a good appetite, loves pizza, salty, sweets, ice cream. He likes chocolate but does not crave it.

She added that she has just miscarried twins after getting pregnant using a donor egg.

When did Nick’s unhappiness begin?

 “Up until he was 7 everybody was happy. He started to deteriorate when my husband’s mother-in-law moved in with us for six months. Things didn’t go well as we clashed, lots of conflict, and my husband was stuck in the middle, so we rented a condo for her to move into. She has a strong entitled personality, always critical; I don’t know if she’s full on narcissistic. I wonder if her behavior affected my son (some days a week she was alone with him in the morning and afternoon, and who knows what things she said to Nick?).”

Analysis

And

Clearly the Ignatia did not work, as there should have been a rapid and significant change in a case such as this. The two most salient symptoms were the incessant weeping and the feeling of being alone in the world. The two rubrics I chose to represent these symptoms were:

  1. Weeping incessantly–combined with–Weeping involuntary
  2. Forsaken, friendless, feels lonely

The two remedies that emerged were Pulsatilla and Natrum muriaticum.

There were no keynotes to confirm Pulsatilla—Nick was not particularly clinging, nor was he better from consolation, open air, etc.

For Natrum muriaticum, on the other hand, there was desire for salty food and his serious, responsible nature. My only reservation was that I did not expect Natrum muriaticum to have so much weeping—it is better known for silent grief. But Morrison does give “involuntary and hysterical weeping” in bold type.

Rx Nat-m 1M (Hahnemann Labs), diluted in 2 drams of spring water, one dropperful per day beginning Sept. 15, 2018

Follow-up – Mother’s email two days later:

“Yes I do feel like this one is working better. Although there is a sadness to him he hasn’t been crying since yesterday. I’ll keep observing and report accordingly. Thank you very much!! I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Mother’s email six days after initial prescription:

“I wanted to follow up on how Nick is doing. We definitely see a big difference in his mood, weepiness. Since taking the new medicine he has not been crying and has been in a good, relaxed mood. The day after he started the medicine, after his Sunday school he came to me and said he came to a decision that he is going to leave things up to me to take care of the matter. A few days ago he said he is happy the medicine is working and feels good that he is just leaving the matter to me. We are so thankful to you, Dr. Finne! You are such a blessing!!”  I wanted to add a few things following our last talk. He has really strong seasonal allergies in the spring. Can homeopathy help with allergies?”

Mother’s email two weeks after initial prescription:

“First, Nick has been progressing nicely (what is the medicine Nick is now taking called?). He asked the other day if, when the medicine finishes, is he going to have those crying fits again? I told him you said that the body will continue self-healing. I am not sure if he is worried about it, but he did ask, and hopefully he has turned the corner. This week we have administered the medicine to him once a day. He has not cried since he started taking this latest medicine and is in fact happy and silly, his usual beautiful self.”

Mother’s phone call at four weeks:

“Nick says, ‘I don’t need medicine any more.’ He’s acting just like a regular kid, not crying about anything. He deals with day to day life, running around to regular events. He had a sleepover at church, did fine, no anxiety of being separated.”

Mother’s email at ten weeks:

“Nick says he has a sore throat that started this morning, and I’m guessing he caught the bug from my husband—but Nick has a tendency to not dress warmly and walk around barefoot at home. I don’t think it has affected his appetite or thirst. He is not showing any other symptoms yet, no fever—that’s why I wanted to catch it early with homeopathy before it gets worse. I myself am symptom free as of now.”

Rx Nat-m 1M, one dropperful as needed up to three times a day

Follow-up:

The sore throat disappeared, and there were no further symptoms. As of this writing, three months after the initial prescription of Natrum muriaticum, Nick has been doing great. I expect the remedy to help significantly with his hay fever symptoms in the spring.

Final thoughts

“Depression” is often used synonymously with “grief,” but the two are distinctly different, and our homeopathic repertories make a grave error in conflating the two. According to Chinese Medicine depression is anger turned inwards against the self. Grief, on the other hand, is the heart’s response to losing an emotional attachment. In miasmatic terms, depression is syphilitic, while grief is syco-psoric.

About the author

Diderik Finne

Diderik Finne

Diderik Finne RSHom has been in homeopathic practice for twenty years, first in New York City and now in Annandale, Virginia. He served as head of the Case Review Committee for the Council for Homeopathic Certification (North America) for six years. He is also a licensed acupuncturist but currently focuses exclusively on homeopathy. He has published five previous cases in Hpathy. Website: http://diderikfinne.com/

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