Can Children Get Depression
Yes, children depression is something many parents face nowadays.
It is quite different than the normal “blues” we all feel sometimes, and just because a child seems sad once in a while, it doesn’t necessarily mean depression is involved.
But, in case the sadness becomes persistent, or interfere with normal daily social activities, school, interests or family life, it may indicate that your child is suffering from depression.
How To Tell If A Child Is Depressed
The symptoms of children depression vary case by case.
Depression can be often un-diagnosed and untreated because these phases are observed as normal emotional and psychological changes that occur during child’s growth.
Many children display sadness or bad mood which is similar to adults who are depressed.
The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, feelings of hopelessness and too often mood changes.
Other signs include:
- Irritability or anger
- Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Increased sensitivity to rejection
- Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)
- Changes in sleep patterns(sleeplessness or excessive sleep)
- Vocal outbursts or crying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy
- Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment
- Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired thinking or concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
However, not all children have all of these symptoms, and most of them will show different symptoms at different times.
Most kids with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in their appearance.
Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over age 12, which is the scariest part.
Young children in depression may attempt suicide, and may do so impulsively when they are upset or angry.
Children with a family history of violence, alcohol abuse, or physical or sexual abuse are at greater risk for suicide, as are those having depressive symptoms.
Which Children Are Prune To Depression
Children suffering from depression is more common in boys under age 10. But by age 16, girls have a greater incidence of depression.
Bipolar disorder is more common in adolescents than in younger children. Bipolar disorder in children can be more severe than in adolescents.
It may also occur with, or be hidden by, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or conduct disorder (CD).
What Is Causing Children Depression
As in adults, depression in children can be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability and biochemical disturbance.
Depression is not a passing mood, nor is it a condition that will go away without proper treatment.
It needs to be treated thoroughly and professionally.
Can It Be Prevented
Children with a family history of depression are at greater risk of experiencing depression themselves later in life.
Children who have parents that suffer from depression tend to develop their first episode of depression earlier than children whose parents do not.
Children from chaotic or conflicted families, or children and teens who abuse substances like alcohol and drugs, are also at greater risk of depression.
How Can Be Children Depression Diagnosed
If the symptoms of depression in your child have lasted for more than two weeks, you should definitely have to schedule a visit to a doctor, to make sure there are no physical reasons for the symptoms and to make sure that your child receives proper treatment.
A consultation with a mental health care professional who specializes in children depression is recommended. Keep in mind that the pediatrician may also ask to speak with your child alone.
A mental health evaluation should include interviews with you as a parent, and your child alone, and to perform additional psychological testing if necessary.
Information from friends, teachers and classmates can be useful to determine if these symptoms are consistent.
Tools such as questionnaires combined with personal information, can be very useful in helping diagnose depression in children.
Sometimes those therapy sessions and questionnaires can uncover other concerns that contribute to the depression such as ADHD, conduct disorder, and OCD.
Some pediatricians start using mental health screens at a child’s 11th year well visit and each year after.
What About Treating Children With Bipolar Disorder
Children with bipolar disorder are usually treated with psychotherapy and a combination of medicines, usually an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.
Antidepressants need to be used with caution, as they can trigger bouts of manic or hyperactive behavior in children with bipolar disorder.
Managing a child’s medication must be part of an overall care plan that includes therapy and routine primary care appointments.
The FDA warns that antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression, and other psychiatric disorders.
If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.
Additionally, if your child is placed on these medications, it is still very important to continue to follow closely with the physician and therapist.
The Most Warning Signs
Studies have found that first-time depression in children is occurring at younger ages than previously. As in adults, depression may occur again later in life.
Depression often occurs at the same time as other physical illnesses. Diagnosis, early treatment and close monitoring are crucial to cure this condition.
Oftentimes, parents deny that their child has depression.
It is very important for parents to understand depression and realize the importance of treatment, so your child can continue to grow physically and emotionally in a much healthier way.
It is also necessary to seek education about the future effects depression may have on your child’s life throughout adolescence and adulthood.
Warning signs of suicidal behavior in children include:
- Depressive symptoms (eating, sleeping and activity changes)
- Social and family isolation
- Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Increased undesirable behaviors (sexual/behavioral)
- Frequent accidents
- Substance abuse
- Focus on morbid and negative themes
- Talk about death and dying
- Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
- Giving away possessions
Are There Any Treatment Options
Treatment options for children with depression are similar to those for adults, including counseling (psychotherapy) and medication.
Your child’s doctor may suggest psychotherapy first, and consider antidepressant medicine as an additional option if there is no significant improvement.
Some studies indicate that a combination of psychotherapy and medication is most effective at treating depression.
What To Expect From Treatments
Treatment for a depression can take time and sometimes involves some trial and error. No two kids are the same, and it’s important to remain patient with the process to help your child feel safe.
Educating your child about depression is a crucial first step.
This helps your child understand the possible causes (genetics, environmental factors, bullying, stress), understand brain chemistry (low serotonin), and reduces self-blame.
It also normalizes what your child is going through.
Counseling is a good option for kids struggling with depression.
There are different kinds of counseling and what works for one might not work for another. For very young children, play therapy is an option.
For older kids and teens, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective. It can take time to find the best patient/therapist match. Make several calls and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Medication might be necessary for moderate to severe cases, but medication works best when combined with counseling.
Medication management is important and close supervision of the prescribing physician is recommended.
For severe cases of depression, including suicidal intention, hospitalization is sometimes necessary.
What To Expect From Your Child
Children and adolescents are developing and are changing at a rapid pace, even when they experience a depressive episode.
As such, symptoms can intensify and lessen throughout treatment.
You might find that the depression seems to have lifted, only to notice a relapse in depressive behavior a few days later.
Irritability, feeling overwhelmed, and outbursts are common in depressed children.
As hard as this can be for the parent on the receiving end of these behaviors, it is important that parents remain calm and focus on active listening.
It’s the natural tendency for the parent to want to “fix” it or somehow put a stop to it, but mental illness is complicated.
It can’t be fixed or stopped.
It can, however, improve with proper treatment and supports in place, and your child can thrive and enjoy childhood once again being perfectly normal.
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