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How to know if your child is depressed

Childhood depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that can negatively impact the way a person feels, thinks, or acts. It is both common, and treatable; and it's symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Depression in children causes feelings of sadness that can be triggered for no reason at all, and can make a child to loose interest in things that they once enjoyed.

If left untreated, depression can lead to a myriad of emotional, social, and even physical problems; and can have a negative impact on a child's ability to function at home or at school.

Common symptoms of depression in children and young adults include:

  1. Acting out or angry behavior

  2. Feeling sad

  3. Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

  4. Changes in appetite

  5. Weight loss or weight gain

  6. Physical pain (stomachaches, headaches) that doesn't respond to treatment

  7. Vocal outbursts or crying

  8. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

  9. Loss of energy, fatigue

  10. Slowed movements and speech

  11. Social withdrawal

  12. Increased sensitivity to rejection

  13. Feelings of guilt of worthlessness

  14. Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

  15. Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last for at least two weeks in order to meet the medical standard for a depression diagnosis.

Everyone experiences depression differently, and someone who is depressed may only exhibit a few of the above symptoms.

Certain medical conditions such as thyroid problems, brain tumors, and vitamin deficiencies can mimic the symptoms of depression so it's important to have a doctor rule out other potential causes.

Depression is different from simply feeling sad. Everyone feels sad once in a while; and it's a completely normal human emotion. But depression is more serious.

Depression is not just a passing mood and it will not go away without treatment.

Depression is the result of a physical lack of neurotransmitters in the emotional centers of the brain.

Being "sad" is not the same as being depressed, nor is "grieving" the same as being depressed.

People who are grieving often experience sadness in waves, intermixed with fond memories of the departed; and throughout the grieving process they typically maintain their self-esteem.

In contrast, people who are depressed feel nothing but sadness for two or more weeks and commonly experience feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.

Children who come from families with a history of depression are at greater risk for experiencing depression themselves, and children dealing with chaotic family situations are at a greater risk for depression as well.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is commonly experienced during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.

SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that results when a lack of sunlight in the winter forces a shift in the circadian rhythm.

The good news is that depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment; and virtually all depression patients are able to eventually mitigate and manage their symptoms.

Common treatments for depression include medication (anti-depressants), psychotherapy (counseling or talk therapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy), and lifestyle change (getting more exercise, sleeping better).

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from depression, you should seek the advice of your pediatrician or make an appointment with a mental health professional for a screening.


American Psychiatric Association "Season Affective Disorder"

American Psychiatric Association "What is Depression?"

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