Depression in Children

Depression is one of the most common psychological disorders. It affects a person’s overall energy, mood, expressions of emotion and behavior. Depressed children often have depressed or stressed parents. Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. Just because a child seems depressed or sad, does not necessarily mean they have depression. The symptoms of depression in children vary. It is often undiagnosed and untreated because they are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes that occur during growth. Children who have biologic relatives that suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders have a biologic tendency towards depression, and are more likely to develop clinical depression. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and mood changes.

Depression is long-lasting. It usually persists for more than a month at a time and is life-threatening. It has been easy to miss the signs of depression in children because it is usually associated with other behaviours such as aggressiveness, irritability, delinquency, hyperactivity. Depression is significantly more common in boys under the age of 10. But by age 16, girls have a greater incidence of depression. 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. Depression may run in families due to genetic factors. It is also more common in girls and women compared to boys.

Symptoms and behaviors associated with Depression in children

  • Change in sleep habits.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in others or most activities.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Doesn’t talk to other children.
  • Crying, feeling sad, helpless or hopeless.
  • Abuse or prolonged use of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

Treatment of Depression

  • Psychotherapy is almost always the first treatment of choice except in cases where depressive symptoms are so severe.
  • There are several types of depression medications (antidepressants) used to treat depression and conditions that have depression as a component of the disease, such as bipolar disorder.
  • Combined use of medications and psychotherapy at the onset of treatment can confound evaluation of treatment effectiveness and the observed source of change.