Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


Of the numerous clinical and theoretical problems confronting medicine today, infant depression represents an increasingly compelling and misunderstood concern (1). Early studies notwithstanding, the concept of infant depression remains in the embryonic and evolving stages of clarification. In studying infant depression, the clinical investigator is initially faced with the difficulty of devising a specific operational definition. Several definitional schemes have been proposed. The first advocates that depression is a proliferative idea that retains a concrete, immutable definition; another scheme argues that depressive affect, a key index of the disorder, is merely an illusory signal that masks the underlying process; still another approach views the diagnostic process embodied in clinical practice as being centripetally inclined, beginning its analysis on the perimeter of abnormality and moving inward. In this manner, a disorder can be inferred from the manifestations of a symptom complex . A reverse etiologic format may also be posited, in which the symptom complex can be interpreted as being derived from the disorder. In discussing infant depression, therefore , it is imperative that the clinician differentiate among these potential approaches and clarify whether depression is being viewed as a dysphoric mood, as an affective state, or as a syndrome.

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