Identifying a Depressed Child

Most everyone is educated about depression in adults. However, society is only now recognizing that children can suffer from this debilitating illness, as well. Everyone has periods in their lives when they are sad, or down in the dumps. It is important to know the difference between your child having a bad day, or two, and true clinical depression.

It is estimated that approximately 2 percent of children and 5 percent of adolescents develop major clinical depression. The number for teens with mild depression is holding at 3.3 percent. The onset of depression and the cause of it differs throughout each age group. It is believed that life events such as death, trauma, or changes within the family dynamics can trigger the depression in children.

As the child matures into their adolescence and the teen years, the child’s self-image and how they process and internalize events in his/her life will play a role in whether they may become depressed. The children in this age group who may be candidates for depression are the ones who are unable to see the broader picture. If they have poor academic performance, instead thinking that they could study harder, they think they are just stupid. If they have been rejected by a peer, instead of being able to separate themselves from the peer’s bad attitude, this child may begin to think they are a freak, or that no one will ever like them. Children can also inherit a predisposition for depression from their family. A depressed child usually lives with a depressed adult.

Some symptoms of depression in children that you need to be aware of are: expressing feelings of hopelessness, refusal to do chores, arguing with authority figures, poor academic performance, nightmares, too much sleep, too little sleep, negative self image, camouflaged sadness with aggression or a lot of activity, feigned illness to get out of social things, withdrawn, sluggish, tired all the time, anxious and unable to sit still, little or no interest in peers and activities, sad, irritable, cries easily, not gaining weight.

Due to the rising rates of suicide among children, it is important that you seek outside help if you think your child or teen may be suffering from depression. It is not something that should be ignored. People can’t snap themselves back into feeling well if they are depressed. Mental health professionals can diagnose, and treat your child through therapy, or medication if needed. Family therapy is sometimes recommended to teach the child how to express his feelings and to teach him/her how to communicate with his/her family. Without treatment, depression can last a year, or more. It is important that you and your child both get educated about depression. You can learn the onset symptoms, the chances and signs of a relapse, and coping skills. Depression is a family affair.

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