Can a child really be depressed?
A child’s depression is different from the general depression called “blue” and the day-to-day emotions that occur as a child grows. Just because a child seems depressed does not mean that they are significantly depressed. If sadness becomes a habit that often disrupts or interferes with social activities, interests, work, school, or family life, it may indicate that they are depressed. Remember that while depression is a serious illness, it can be treated.
How can a child be diagnosed with depression?
The symptoms of depression in children are different. They are often diagnosed and not treated because they are referred to as normal emotional and psychological changes. Early medical studies focused on “hidden” depression, in which a child’s depressed mood was manifested by outward or outbursts of anger.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
• Irritability or anger
• Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
• Social withdrawal
• Increased sensitivity to rejection
• Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased
• Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep
• Vocal outbursts or crying
• Difficulty concentrating
• Fatigue and low energy
• Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment
• Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
• Impaired thinking or concentration
• Thoughts of death or suicide
Not all children have these symptoms. In fact, most people will show different symptoms at different times and in different places. Although some children may continue to function well in a structured environment, most children with significant depression will experience significant changes in social activities, loss of interest in school, and poor study results and so on. Children can also start using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over 12 years old.
Although it is rare in children under the age of 12, young children attempt suicide and can act quickly when they are upset or angry. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys are more likely to commit suicide when they attempt. Children with a family history of violence, alcohol or physical or sexual abuse are at higher risk of suicide as well as those with depressive symptoms.
What causes depression in children?
Like adults, depression in children can be caused by a combination of factors related to physical health, life events, family history, the environment, genetic vulnerability, and biochemical disturbance. Depression is not just a feeling; it is not a condition that will go away without proper treatment.
Can Depression in Children Be Prevented?
Children with a family history of depression are at higher risk of developing depression on their own. Children whose parents suffer from depression are more likely to develop depression than children whose parents do not have the disease. Children from chaotic or conflicting families or children and adolescents who abuse substances such as alcohol and drugs are also at higher risk for depression.