So often in the discussion around depression is focused on adults or teens. There is a big group of those suffering from depression left out and often forgotten about, children. Many people don’t recognize that children, especially children under the ages of 12, can and do suffer from serious depression. The truth is that many adults suffering from depression can trace it and link it back to their childhood. If we focused more on identifying and treating it young, perhaps we can prevent it from following us into adulthood.
Yes, children can suffer from depression. Children, like everyone else, have normal “blues” or emotional roller coasters that come from childhood development. Childhood depression is different, though. It is more than a child just being sad. Children with depression have many of the same symptoms that adults and teens do. Their sadness becomes persistent, they feel worthless, and it begins to interfere with their social life like school, friends, and family.
Children with depression often don’t get treatment because those around them don’t recognize the signs. Symptoms are typically brushed off as standard emotional and psychological changes that children go through.
Many studies have focused on “masked depression” in children. In these instances, a child’s depression is manifested in acting out or angry behavior. This is most common in younger children. Childhood depression seems to effect boys more often, but their symptoms are missed. The masked depression symptoms of acting out and being disruptive in school are labeled as standard childhood boy behavior.
Many children with depression will exhibit symptoms very similar to adults. They will feel sad, low, hopeless, or have sudden mood changes. They may withdrawal socially or stop becoming interested in hobbies or activities. Changes in eating or sleeping habits, similar to in adults, are also common. Children with depression often report having nightmares often. For children with depression, they could complain about physical ailments, such as headaches and stomachaches, that don’t respond to normal treatment.
Any changes in social interactions or school performance are a sign of something wrong. For children 12 or over with depression, the risk of using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate go up significantly.
Depression in adults, teens, and children can all be caused by a combination and variety of factors. Physical health, genetics, family problems, environment, life events, and other factors can come into play. Depression in children, like in adults, is not a passing mood like standard sadness.
Children that come from a family with a history of depression have an increased risk of developing it. If they have a parent that suffers from depression they might develop it earlier than other children. Unstable home live with chaotic families also have an increased risk. In adults, teens, and children, if they abuse drugs or alcohol the risk of depression is increased.
If you notice any of the symptoms of depression, even sadness, lasting longer than two weeks you should take action. The first step would be setting up an appointment with a mental health professional. Find one that specializes in treating children so that they can treat them properly. A mental health evaluation will happen, including interviews and tests, to determine if and to what extent the child suffers from depression.
There is no magical test that will tell you if a child suffers from depression. Often, children are unable to voice what exactly they are feeling how adults can. Depression in children can be treated though with proper care.
Treatment options for children are very similar to those for adults. Psychotherapy with a mental health profession is common. The entire family may be involved in the treatment process in children, unlike in adults. Medication may also be prescribed to treat depression. Antidepressants along with talk therapy have been proven to be the most effective at treating depression.
It can be scary and overwhelming as a parent to think about your child suffering from depression. They’re not alone, though. Around 2.8% of children in the US have depression. It’s important to remember that depression is a completely treatable disorder. With proper treatment, the child can be well again.