Depression and anxiety doesn't just develop in adults, scientists say children can show signs of mental illness as early as newborns.
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, brain patterns in newborns can predict mental illness symptoms like sadness, excessive shyness, nervousness and separation anxiety.
These symptoms are often linked to more serious conditions like depression and anxiety down the road.
But that doesn't mean experiences don't play a major role as well.
"The experiences and environment that [people] are exposed to as they grow may alter these connectivity patterns making it more or less likely for these symptoms to develop,” lead researcher and child psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia Rogers told The Huffington Post.
The Washington University study, which analyzed brain scans of over 100 infants and followed up with them after two years, also found brain patterns of full-term babies were similar to patterns found in adults.
They also found premature infants lacked strength in certain brain regions, though that did not have an impact on their symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“Part of that may have been due to the fact that a number of the full-term children already were at risk for symptoms due to socio-demographic factors, such as living in poverty or having a mother with clinical depression or an anxiety disorder," Rogers said.
"Further, the severity of these early anxiety symptoms was correlated with connectivity patterns seen in the infants in both groups.”
Researchers have long wondered about the mental health of infants, in 2006, Dr. Jess Shatkin told ABC News children of depressed parents are three times more likely to experience depression, anxiety or behavioural disorders.
Identifying stress and anxiety in children can be difficult to detect. Check out this list of stress signs you may be missing and contact your pediatrician for treatment options.
The Washington University researchers say their study is far from complete, as they hope to study the children again when they are nine or 10 years old to get a better sense of their brain development.
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