Unlike the typical “blues” and daily emotions that children experience as they grow, childhood depression is distinct from these feelings. A young person may not always suffer from severe depression just because they look down. But if the melancholy persists or affects daily responsibilities like work, family, or friends, it may be a sign of a depressive disorder. Remember that although depression is a severe condition, it can be treated.
What Symptoms of Depression Can My Child Have?
There are several signs of childhood depression. Due to symptoms being misdiagnosed as typical emotional and psychological changes, the illness often goes unreported and untreated. Early medical research concentrated on “masked” depression, in which a child’s gloomy mood was shown by acting out or irrational conduct. While this may sometimes occur, especially in younger children, many kids also show signs of melancholy or depression, just like depressive adults. Sadness, a sense of helplessness, and mood swings are the main signs of depression.
Children that are depressed often exhibit the following symptoms:
- Irritability or rage
- Feelings of melancholy and hopelessness that never go away
- Social isolation
- being more susceptible to being rejected
- Alterations in appetite, whether they be positive or negative
- Variations in sleep (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)
- Vocal screams or sobs
- Difficulty focusing
- Low energy and weary
- physical issues that don’t improve with therapy (such headaches and stomachaches)
- Having issues with activities and events at home, with friends, at school, at extracurriculars, or with other interests or hobbies
- Feelings of shame or worthlessness
- Impaired focus or thinking
- Suicidal or death-related ideas
Not all kids exhibit all of these symptoms. In actuality, most people exhibit various symptoms at various times and in various environments. While some youngsters with severe depression can still function quite well in organized surroundings, the majority of them will show a notable shift in their social lives, lose interest in school, do poorly academically, or change in appearance. A child may start taking drugs or alcohol as well, particularly if they are older than 12 years old.
Young children sometimes make suicide attempts, albeit they are very uncommon in those under the age of 12, and they can act impulsively when sad or angry. Although guys are more likely to actually commit suicide when they try it, girls are more likely to do so. Children who have depressive symptoms as well as those with a family history of violence, alcoholism, or physical or sexual abuse are more likely to commit suicide.
Which Children Experience Depression?
Up to 3% of children and 8% of teenagers suffer from depression. Boys under the age of 10 are substantially more likely to have the disorder. But at the age of 16, females are more likely to experience despair.
Adolescents are more likely than younger children to suffer from bipolar disorder. However, compared to adolescence, bipolar illness in children might be more severe. Additionally, it might coexist with or be concealed by conduct disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (CD).
What Leads to Childhood Depression?
Like in adults, any number of factors related to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic susceptibility, and biochemical disturbances may contribute to depression in children. Depression is a medical disorder that requires treatment and does not just go away on its own.
Childhood Depression May Be Preventable
Children who have a history of depression in the family are also more likely to develop the disorder. Children with depressive parents often experience their first depressive episode sooner than children with healthy parents. Children from chaotic or contentious homes as well as kids and teenagers who misuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience depression.
How Depression Diagnosed in Young People
Make an appointment with your kid’s doctor if their depressive symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks to rule out any medical causes and to ensure that your child is receiving the right care. It is also advised that you speak with a child-focused mental health specialist. Remember that the doctor can want a private conversation with your kid.
Interviews with you (the parent or main caregiver) and your kid should be a part of a mental health examination, along with any other necessary psychological testing. When demonstrating that these symptoms occur consistently throughout your child’s activities and represent a significant departure from prior conduct, information from instructors, friends, and classmates might be helpful.
Although there are no particular medical or psychological tests that may detect depression in children, tools like questionnaires (for the kid and parents) together with individualized data can be extremely helpful in making the diagnosis. Aside from depression, issues including ADHD, conduct disorder, and OCD may sometimes be found during treatment sessions and questionnaires.
Some physicians begin administering mental health tests to children during their annual well-child visits beginning in the 11th year.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force advises screening for major depressive disorder (MDD) in adolescents ages 12 to 18 and for anxiety in children and adolescents aged 8 to 18.
Similar to adult patients, children with depression may get medication and psychotherapy (counselling) as treatments. In the event that psychotherapy does not provide substantial results, your child’s doctor may next offer antidepressant medication. The most successful method for treating depression, according to the best research to date, is a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
The antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac), however, has been shown in tests to be beneficial in treating depression in children and adolescents. The FDA has formally approved the medication for the treatment of depressed youngsters between the ages of 8 and 18.
The majority of drugs used to treat paediatric depression come with a black box warning regarding the potential for escalating suicide ideation. It’s crucial to start and maintain these drugs under the guidance of a qualified physician, with whom you can also discuss your child’s particular risks and advantages.
Childhood Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Treatment for bipolar illness in children often includes psychotherapy as well as a cocktail of medications, typically an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.
Antidepressants should be used with care since they may make bipolar youngsters appear maniacal or hyperactive for brief periods of time. A comprehensive care plan for a kid must include counselling and regular visits to the primary care provider, as well as medication management.
In children and adolescents with depression and other mental illnesses, the FDA issues a warning that antidepressant drugs may raise the risk of suicide thoughts and actions. Discuss any queries or concerns you may have with your physician. It’s also crucial to keep in constant contact with the doctor and therapist even if your kid is prescribed these meds.
According to studies, youngsters are developing their first cases of depression at earlier ages than in the past. Depression may recur later in life, just as it does in adults. The onset of various medical ailments and depression are often concurrent. Furthermore, early diagnosis, effective treatment, and constant supervision are essential since studies have shown that depression may be a precursor to more severe mental illnesses later in life.
It might be simpler for parents to downplay their child’s sadness than to acknowledge it. The societal stigmas attached to mental illness may drive you to put off getting assistance. In order for your kid to continue to develop physically and emotionally in a healthy manner, it is crucial for you as the parent to understand depression and appreciate the value of therapy. Additionally, it’s critical to educate yourself on the potential consequences depression may have on your kid as they approach puberty and adulthood.
Warning Signs of Childhood Depression
Parents need to be very watchful for any symptoms that might point to a suicide risk in their children.
Children who exhibit suicidal tendencies should be on the lookout for:
- Several signs of depression (changes in eating, sleeping, activities)
- Social exclusion, which also includes exclusion from the family
- Mention suicide, apathy, or helplessness
- Carrying out of unpleasant habits more often (sexual or behavioral)
- Increased propensity towards taking risks
- Recurring mishaps
- Abusing drugs
- Giving away belongings
- Accentuate gloomy and negative themes
- Discuss death and dying
- Decreased emotional expressiveness or increased sobbing
Take the time to hear your child’s worries if you think they may be sad. Even if you don’t consider the issue to be very pressing, keep in mind that it may be. Even though your child seems to want to distance themselves from you, it’s crucial to maintain contact. Avoid giving him or her instructions. Instead, pay careful attention and you could learn more about the problems’ root causes.
Consult a professional if you feel overburdened, unable to communicate with your child, or if your concerns persist.