Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Can You Have Depression As A Child

Whats The Difference Between Depression And Grief

Physical activity can help reduce anxiety and depression in children

Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. While grief and depression share certain symptoms , grief is not as constant. In other words, a person who is grieving may feel very sad when thinking about or remembering the loss, but feel somewhat better around friends and family. But someone with depression rarely finds relief from sadness.

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  • Since mental health is no different from physical health and mental problems and illnesses are treatable, anyone suffering from a mental illness should be treated with dignity

Let Them Absorb The News

When kids get unexpected and upsetting news, they need time to process it. Give them time to think about what youve told them.

Once theyve had a few hours or days with the information, theyll probably come back to you with questions. If they dont have much to say at first and you havent heard back from them in a few days, check in with them to make sure theyre OK.

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Why Is My Child Depressed

Things that increase the risk of depression in children include:

  • family difficulties
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • a family history of depression or other mental health problems

Sometimes depression is triggered by 1 difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children.

Often it’s caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have a tendency to get depression and also experienced some difficult life events.

Who Can Treat Depression In Children

Depression in children: Signs, symptoms, and what to do

Different types of mental health professionals can help your child with symptoms of depression. Masters-level professionals licensed in the state of Texas include marriage and family therapists , professional counselors and social workers . Doctoral-level mental health professionals include psychologists and psychiatrists . These abbreviations after a provider’s name will tell you what level of training they have.

Psychiatrists typically provide medication management rather than weekly therapy, although some offer both. It is important to know that research shows that medication alone is less effective than a combination of medication plus therapy. However, mild cases of depression may not require medication at all, only therapy/counseling. A licensed mental health provider can help determine the best treatment for your child.

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How Can I Tell If My Child Is Depressed

If a child is depressed, parents may notice some of these signs:

  • Sad or bad mood. A child may seem sad, lonely, unhappy, or grouchy. It can last weeks or months. A child may cry more easily. They may have more tantrums than before.
  • Being self-critical. Kids going through depression may complain a lot. They may say self-critical things like, “I can’t do anything right.” “I don’t have any friends.” “I can’t do this.” “It’s too hard for me.”
  • Lack of energy and effort. Depression can drain a child’s energy. They might put less effort into school than before. Even doing little tasks can feel like too much effort. Kids may seem tired, give up easily, or not try.
  • Not enjoying things. Kids don’t have as much fun with friends or enjoy playing like before. They may not feel like doing things they used to enjoy.
  • Sleep and eating changes. Kids may not sleep well or seem tired even if they get enough sleep. Some may not feel like eating. Others may overeat.
  • Aches and pains. Some children may have stomach aches or other pains. Some miss school days because of not feeling well, even though they aren’t sick.

Is It Possible To Prevent Depression In Children

  • For children, from infancy through the teenage years, strong, healthy parent-child attachment can help protect the child from developing depression.
  • Parental behaviors that tend to foster health attachment with their children involve consistent love and care, as well as attentive responsiveness to the child’s needs, including age-appropriate steps toward the child’s gradual independence.
  • Preventing depression in childhood tends to involve addressing risk factors, both specific and nonspecific, strengthening other protective factors, and using an appropriate approach for the child’s developmental level.
  • Such programs often use cognitive-behavioral and/or interpersonal approaches, as well as family-based prevention strategies because research shows that these interventions are the most effective.
  • Protective factors for adolescent depression include involving supportive adults, strong family and peer relationships, healthy coping skills, and emotional regulation.
  • Children of a depressed parent tend to be more resilient when the child is more able to focus on age-appropriate tasks in their lives and on their relationships, as well as being able to understand their parents’ condition.
  • For depressed parents, their children seem to be less likely to develop the disorder when the parent is able to demonstrate a commitment to parenting and to relationships.

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Tip : Make Physical Health A Priority

Physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Depression is exacerbated by inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition. Unfortunately, teens are known for their unhealthy habits: staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on their phones and devices. But as a parent, you can combat these behaviors by establishing a healthy, supportive home environment.

Get your teen moving!Exercise is absolutely essential to mental health, so get your teen activewhatever it takes. Ideally, teens should be getting at least an hour of physical activity a day, but it neednt be boring or miserable. Think outside the box: walking the dog, dancing, shooting hoops, going for a hike, riding bikes, skateboardingas long as theyre moving, its beneficial.

Set limits on screen time. Teens often go online to escape their problems, but when screen time goes up, physical activity and face time with friends goes down. Both are a recipe for worsening symptoms. Gently encourage your teen to take an occasional vacation from their devices or engage in family activities that dont involve screen time. You can also set an example by reducing your own time spent online.

Encourage plenty of sleep.Teens need more sleep than adults to function optimallyup to 9-10 hours per night. Make sure your teen isnt staying up until all hours at the expense of much-needed, mood-supporting rest.

What Are Complications Of Depression In Children

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  • Depression during childhood puts sufferers at risk for developing a number of other mental health issues.
  • Children with depression are also more likely to have poor academic performance and to engage in alcohol and other drug abuse.
  • As adults, people who had depression during childhood and adolescence are at risk for having trouble maintaining employment, as well as family and other social disruptions during adulthood.

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Suicide Warning Signs To Watch For

  • Talking or joking about committing suicide
  • Saying things like, Id be better off dead,I wish I could disappear forever, or Theres no way out
  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying
  • Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves

Get help for a suicidal teen

If you suspect that a teenager is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit IASP or

To learn more about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and what to do in a crisis, read Suicide Prevention.

Signs And Symptoms Of Major Depression

Each child may experience symptoms of major depression differently. To be diagnosed with major depression, a child needs to show at least one of the following two symptoms for most days of the week, for most of the day, during the same two-week period:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or irritability

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities once enjoyed

In addition, several of the following symptoms must also be present:

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Frequent physical complaints, such as a headache, stomachache, or fatigue

  • Thoughts of wishing to be dead

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Its crucial to remember that depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts and behaviors must be taken very seriously.

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How Is Depression Diagnosed In Children

If the symptoms of depression in your child have lasted for at least 2 weeks, schedule a visit with their doctor to make sure there are no physical reasons for the symptoms and to make sure that your child gets proper treatment. A consultation with a mental health care professional who specializes in children is also recommended. Keep in mind that the pediatrician may ask to speak with your child alone.

A mental health evaluation should include interviews with you and your child, and any other psychological testing that is needed. Information from teachers, friends, and classmates can be useful for showing that these symptoms are consistent during your child’s various activities and are a marked change from previous behavior.

There are no specific medical or psychological tests that can clearly show depression, but 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 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.

How Is Teen Depression Treated

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Besides screening for depression, the AAP guidelines encourage pediatricians to have processes for helping their patients get treatment.

Some practices even have their own mental health professionals on staff. Your pediatrician can suggest a treatment plan for your adolescent that may involve medication, therapy or both.

When it comes to antidepressants, Dr. Issac says she only suggests them in certain cases.

It depends on the severity of the symptoms and how much its impacting your childs daily functioning, she says. There are definitely teens who would benefit just from seeing a therapist. Those who are more severely impacted may need medication.

She adds that depression is caused by imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which is why medications may be helpful in certain cases.

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How Do Antidepressants Work

The most common antidepressant medications for children are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors . These medications increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that can help increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Use extra caution with antidepressants in children. Some children show no improvement with the medications, or may even feel more depressed. If a healthcare provider recommends antidepressants, watch your childs condition closely. Never allow your child to stop taking antidepressants suddenly. Doing so can cause serious side effects or make depression worse.

Treatment For Major Depression

Early treatment is key to reducing distress, improving functioning, and preventing future depression episodes. Without treatment, your childs depression could persist for longer and become increasingly more severe, leading to significant impairment in school, at home, and with friends and family.

At Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, a specialist will design an individualized treatment plan based on your childs symptoms and other personal factors. The treatment plan may include:

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How Does Psychotherapy Work

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can treat anxiety or depression in children. CBT helps children learn to think more positively and control negative behaviors. It can also help children manage anxiety by getting to the root of their fears and worries. Therapy gives children tools to cope with anxiety and depression in healthier ways.

Think Together About Whether Theres Anything In Particular Thats Making Them Feel This Way

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This could include a problem with a friendship or family relationship, feeling bullied or left out at school, feeling overwhelmed by school work, struggling with a change such as divorce or separation in the family, or a combination of things.

Are there changes that could be made at home or school that would make things easier?

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Take Care Of Yourself

Sometimes when people take on a caretaker role, they begin to neglect their own well-being. Its important to remember, however, that in order to care for your family member you need to first take care of yourself.

  • Make sure youre practicing good self-care including getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.
  • Social support is also critical, so make sure that you are reaching out to your other family members and friends.
  • Talking to a mental health professional can also help.

How Is Parental Depression Diagnosed

Generally speaking, doctors are increasingly aware of the many health risks linked to depression. Most doctors screen for it at regular appointments by looking for symptoms and asking specific questions designed to help identify it. Some people go to the doctor on their own because they feel depressed, while others may be urged to do so by concerned friends or family members.

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Depression In Children Is A Risk For Suicidal Thoughts

If your child hasn’t openly expressed any suicidal thoughts, it’s important to recognize the possible symptoms of childhood depression, since these are often associated with suicidal thoughts. This may include feelings such as worthlessness, hopelessness, and social withdrawal.

Suicidal thoughts do not always lead to a suicide attempt, but such thoughts are believed to increase a child’s risk.

While not all children who are depressed have suicidal thoughts , depression is considered a risk factor for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Suicide is one of the scary consequences of untreated depression in children, but depression in children can be devastating in other ways as well.

Encourage Them To Think About What They Enjoy Doing

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Take a step-by-step approach towards helping them do these activities when they feel able to. This could be things like exercising or playing sport, listening to music, doing something creative like colouring or drawing, watching a favourite film, reading a favourite book or going for a walk with you.

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Depression In Children: Warning Signs

Parents should be particularly vigilant for signs that may indicate that their child is at risk for suicide.

Warning signs of suicidal behavior in children include:

  • Many depressive symptoms
  • Social isolation, including isolation from the family
  • Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Increased acting-out of undesirable behaviors
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Focus on morbid and negative themes
  • Talk about death and dying
  • Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
  • Giving away possessions

If you suspect that your child or teenager is depressed, take the time to listen to their concerns. Even if you don’t think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to them. Itâs important to keep the lines of communication open, even if your child seems to want to withdraw. Try to avoid telling your child what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.

If you feel overwhelmed or unable to reach your child, or if you continue to be concerned, seek professional help.

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Does Depression Affect Children

Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Although children naturally have mood swings as they grow and develop, depression is different. The disorder can affect how children interact with friends and family. It may prevent them from enjoying school, sports, hobbies or other normal childhood activities.

In children, depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Anxiety is a medical condition that causes feelings of fear, panic or worry about everyday situations. Sometimes, depression or anxiety in children gets chalked up to growing pains. But if you have any concerns about behavioral or mental health, talk to a healthcare provider.

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Depression Is Tough To Deal With Alone Its Important To Get Support For Your Child As Well As Yourself

  • There can be an urge to deny that your child could have depression. Be prepared to tune into them, as well as your own feelings about this

  • Tell them you care. Take notice of what the world is like for them, not how you expect it to be

  • Stay close making time to spend with them can help

  • Look out for signs they may be suicidal and seek professional help to make a safety plan

  • Your child is not alone encourage them to contact Kids Helpline. They can us, start a WebChat or send us an email

  • You are not alone contact a counsellor at the Parentline service in your State or Territory and speak with your local Doctor

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018

What Are Risk Factors For Childhood Depression

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It’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the risk factors for depression in children, which can include anxiety, family history of mental disorders, hormonal changes in puberty and life stressors.

“Chronic anxiety is one of the most common risk factors we see for depression in children,” explains Alice Ann Holland, Ph.D., ABPP, Research Director of the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Health and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern. “This is anxiety that hasn’t been properly diagnosed or treated for anywhere from months to years, which wears children down emotionally over time.”

Risk factors for childhood depression can include life stressors such as:

  • Changing to a new school
  • Conflict in the home
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Starting school

In addition to the above life stressors, adolescents and teens may also deal with the following situations that can trigger depression:

  • Academic stress, especially related to college admissions
  • Athletic performance pressure
  • Dating relationships, including negative relationships and breakups
  • Sleep deprivation

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