Worried your child may be suffering from depression?
Depression, though not as common in younger children, is a growing issue among older kids and teenagers. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as many as 2 to 3% of children ages 6-12 and 6-8% 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.
As a parent, it’s important to know the signs of childhood depression.
Sadness lasting for at least two weeks
All children experience sadness during their young lives. However, this sadness becomes a problem when it’s persistent and lasts for more than two weeks. This sadness can be paired with feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.
Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
Children who are suffering from depression often have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. This often has a negative impact throughout the day, as they could suffer from fatigue, difficulty concentrating at school and emotional outbursts. On the other hand, another sign of depression is excessive sleep.
Change in eating habits
Notice if your child is eating more or less during the day. Both extremes could be signs of childhood depression. In addition, look for sudden changes in weight and talk with your child about this change. Especially if your child is fixated on their size and weight, it could also be a sign of depression.
Decreased interest in activities and friends
Another major sign of depression is related to your child’s social interactions. If s/he seems bored and withdrawn from friends more so than in the past, it could be a symptom of depression. S/he may also seem less interested or bored with activities that they enjoyed in the past. Depressed teens often show this behavior of no longer wanting to participate in activities they once enjoyed.
Problems at school
From declining grades to other issues like getting in trouble or refusing to go to school, problems at school can be a sign of childhood depression. Like the point above regarding interests, your child could also withdraw from school organizations and lose overall motivation when it comes to academics. Notice if your child is having a hard time focusing on school work or paying attention in class, as these are also signs of childhood depression.
Running away from home
Because of increased emotions of sadness, anger, and irritability, it could motivate your child to run away from home as a way to avoid any conflict or issue they may be facing. Notice if your child becomes more motivated to avoid problems that arise or if they make an increased effort to leave or be away from home.
From headaches to stomachaches and other physical ailments, children with depression may suffer from pain that doesn’t have a clear cause. Relating to lack of sleep, your child may also have low energy levels throughout the day and have no energy to go through their regular daily routines. This increase in pain may also lead to the frequent release of emotions, such as crying more often.
If your child or teen is showing depression symptoms, try the Heads Up Checkup symptom checker. Heads Up Checkup can give you insight on whether you should be concerned about your child's symptoms. If not quickly and properly treated, childhood depression can negatively impact your child’s physical and emotional growth and may never go away.
Counseling can be an effective treatment to help your child learn 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 life. You can learn more about common treatment methods and what to expect here.