Signs of depression in children
Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that children go through as they develop. Just because a child seems sad doesn’t necessarily mean they have significant depression. But if the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may mean they have a depressive illness.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
- Crankiness or anger
- Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased
- Changes in sleep (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)
- Trouble concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy
- Physical complaints (such as stomachaches and headaches) that don’t respond to treatment
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Not all children have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will show different symptoms at different times and in different settings.
Why is my child depressed?
Things that increase the risk of depression in children include:
- family difficulties
- physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- a family history of depression or other mental health problems
Sometimes depression is triggered by one difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children. Often it’s caused by a mixture of things.
Can I prevent my child from developing depression?
Depression can result from certain situations in life or may have a biological cause. As a parent, you can’t always control the stressors in your child’s life. But you can help improve your child’s mental health by ensuring they get:
- Daily exercise.
- Safe, supportive environment at home and school.
- Plenty of sleep.
- Well-balanced meals.
What are risk factors for childhood depression?
It’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the risk factors for depression in children, which can include anxiety, family history of mental disorders, hormonal changes in puberty and life stressors. Risk factors can include life stressors such as:
- Starting school or changing to a new school
- Conflict in the home
- Dealing with bullying– in person or on social media
- Dealing with medical issues
- Parental separation or divorce
In addition to the above life stressors, adolescents and teens may also deal with the following situations that can trigger depression:
- Academic stress, especially related to college admissions
- Athletic performance pressure
- Dating relationships, including negative relationships and breakups
- Sleep deprivation
Will my child’s depression go away?
Every child is different. Some children may outgrow depression. Others may need to manage this condition for the rest of their lives. You can help your child now by making sure they get a proper diagnosis and the right treatment.
How is depression diagnosed in children?
If the symptoms of depression in your child have lasted for at least 2 weeks, schedule a visit with their doctor to make sure there are no physical reasons for the symptoms and to make sure that your child gets proper treatment. A consultation with a mental health care professional who specialises in children is also recommended.
What are the treatment options?
Your child’s doctor may suggest psychotherapy first and consider antidepressant medicine as an option if there is no significant improvement.
As a parent, it is sometimes easier to deny that your child has depression. You may put off seeking help because of the social stigmas associated with mental illness. It is very important for you – as the parent – to understand depression and realise the importance of treatment so that your child may continue to grow physically and emotionally in a healthy way. Keep in mind that while depression is a serious illness, it’s also a treatable one.
Visit your nearest The Local Choice Pharmacy to discuss the potential symptoms of depression with your pharmacist. We are here for you, always!
Disclaimer: All content on the The Local Choice Pharmacy is created and published online for informational purposes only. It should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.