Understanding Childhood Depression
It’s common for children to experience sadness at times. However, when sadness or irritable mood becomes persistent and interferes with everyday activities—it is not common and can have a negative impact on childhood and beyond.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as many as 2 to 3% of children ages 6 to 12 and 6 to 8% of teens may have serious depression, and an estimated 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17) in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2014.
Childhood depression is often undiagnosed and therefore not treated. Depression when not properly treated can negatively impact your child’s physical and emotional growth. Children with depression may also have other underlying disorders such as anxiety disorder, learning disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Below is information regarding depression in young children, symptoms, and treatments.
What is childhood depression?
Childhood depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. This depressed behavior and symptoms may vary from child to child, but a common trait of depression is that the behavior interferes with the ability to function.
Depression is treatable and often requires long-term treatment.
What are the symptoms of depression in young children?
Common symptoms of depression in children include:
- Depressed mood for most of the day
- Loss of interest and enjoyment
- Significant change in weight or appetite
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Indecisiveness or decreased ability to concentrate
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- No longer wanting to be with family or friends
If you have concerns that your child may be depressed, try the Heads Up Checkup symptom checker and get immediate feedback. The American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends the following evaluation when depression symptoms are present:
- Direct interviews with child, parents/caregivers and when appropriate, teachers, peers and social service professionals
- A mood diary where either a child or parents track moods and behaviors.
- Evaluate home life, school life, and other environmental factors
It’s important that parents first talk with their child about their behavior and emotions and if the symptoms persist, make an appointment with the doctor.
What are the treatment options for depression?
The American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that treatment of depression should include problem-solving, coping skills, active listening, and reflection. Initial treatment should revolve around education, supportive therapy and counseling. Counseling can be effective for depression as it can help your child find better problem-solving skills, replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones, learn how to set realistic goals, explore relationships and experiences and most importantly, regain a sense of satisfaction and control in their life. Talk with your healthcare professional to help create a plan for your child.
At Well Street, we believe it is important for your child to receive help from a behavioral health care professional as soon as you suspect your child is suffering from depression. Early identification and treatment can make a world of difference for your child and for your family—today and in the long-term.