Depression in Children: What Parents Need to Know

Knowing the signs and symptoms.

Source: Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

Around 3.2 million children aged 12 to 17 have had at least one major depressive episode. With numbers like that, parents must know the essential signs of depression in children.

Psychiatric disorders in children may not present the same as they would in adults. Meaning, depression in adults will not look the same as depression in children.

Anxiety and depression can really go hand in hand, so it’s important to know the signs of both. Getting your child early intervention can be beneficial to their long-term growth.

I’ve dedicated much of my elective studies within my undergraduate and graduate degrees to focus on children’s psychology. Specifically, I studied the life span but had a specific interest in infant and adolescent development.

I worked as a psychometrist for a year, where I saw adults and children that would come in with depression — each person displayed their symptoms differently.

Children don’t have the ability to truly share how they feel, so we have to know the signs that can help us spot them.

Symptoms

Much like anxiety in children, there will be different signs that adults will experience.

So children will have their own unique symptoms that could point to depression. But it is essential to always bring your child to their doctor to receive a proper evaluation.

Depression can take a toll on development, and stunted social skills. This combination of issues may cause a child to be isolated from friends and family.

Children with depression may not be sullen, and inactive — compared to most adults with depression. In fact, I have seen children with depression be full of energy. The lesser-seen signs of depression in children are what need to be looked at as well:

  • Behavior issues at school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Irritable
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities

Some of these symptoms might not seem too off target. But behaviors that might get children into trouble can, like destructive behavior at school, could potentially be a sign of distress.

Children don’t have the knowledge or language abilities to express how they feel. In order to express themselves, children will act it — it’s all they know.

How does it happen?

There are many different reasons why a child may develop depression. Trauma, extreme stress, health conditions, grief, loss of family or close friends, bullying, abuse/neglect, and much more can all be reasons a child may develop depression.

There is also a genetic component to mental illness in general. Still, it is not a primary dictating factor in someone developing a mental illness. Mental illness occurs with a combination of genetics, environment, and their own unique temperament.

How to help

If depression in childhood is not effectively managed, it can increase the risk of suicide and cause interpersonal relationship issues.

If you are worried your child might have depression, it’s best to speak to their pediatrician. You can simply ask for your child to be screened for depression. Usually, the doctor’s office will provide questionnaires for you (and maybe your child, depending on their age) to fill out.

What you can start doing now is really taking the time to listen to your child. Don’t just assume about issues they may be having — listen and get to know them.

You need to be there as their support system.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

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