The rates of depression in children have increased over the last several years. It is not only alarming but can be difficult to identify as a parent or family member. Particularly because depression in children is still questioned and often invalidated in society, and can be well hidden by the depressed child. The truth is, children can get depressed and it is a very serious health condition. The good news is; there are treatment options available which are widely proven and established. Read on to find out how to recognize depression in children? Why they may feel that way and what you can do to help their mental well-being?
What can cause depression in children
Depression can stem from several reasons and anyone can have it, however, it is more likely to affect children who have immediate family members with depression or mood disorders due to genetic predisposition. Children who have serious medical conditions may also be more susceptible to being depressed. Additionally, children with a family history of violence, or abuse (alcohol, physical or sexual) are at a greater risk of suffering from depression.
Signs of depression in children
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include but is not limited to:
- Irritability, anger and temper tantrums
- Consistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Withdrawal and lost of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Increasing isolation from friends and family, talk of running away
- Changes in sleep and appetite (either increased or decreased)
- Feelings of fatigue, low energy
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Physical discomfort or pain such as headaches and stomach aches
- Feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem
- Thoughts or talk of suicide and dying
Children may not experience all of these symptoms at one time and can appear to function reasonably well at times. However, if you notice any of these symptoms persist on most days for longer than 2 weeks, as well as experimentation in drugs and/or alcohol, it may be a sign of mental illness. If you would like more information on the different types of mental illnesses that can affect a person, including depression, online therapy platform BetterHelp offers a myriad of informative and educative articles on mental health for free.
What you can do to help
Though it may feel best to wait and see if these signs and symptoms go away, any time a child’s family, social or school life is affected negatively because of their persistent emotional turmoil is reason enough to seek treatment. Psychotherapy is an invaluable form of treatment that will explore the underlying issues the child is experiencing. It typically uses CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for mild to moderate depression. For more severe cases, a combination of CBT and anti-depressants may be prescribed. However, it is important to seek a therapist who you can collaborate and agree on a treatment plan with.
In addition to professional help, it is vital to creating a safe space for a depressed child to express their feelings and needs. Be supportive of their mental health struggles and accept them as they are. Children do not choose to be depressed, as is true with any other mental illness.
It is important to note that without proper treatment and close monitoring of a child diagnosed with depression, there is a greater risk of prolonged and depressive episodes later in life. Left untreated, depression can lead to serious harm to others and to themselves; that is why professional treatment is so crucial.
By identifying depressive signs and symptoms early on and seeking professional treatment for your child, you can prevent relapse and support them toward a healthier and happier future.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.