What Depression Is And Isn’t
Of course, it’s hard to seek treatment if you’re not sure what it is that you’re experiencing. Both depression and anxietywhich may occur in tandemcan show up as irritability, forgetfulness, and anger. And although rage has long been ascribed to men, it can signal that a mom feels unheard and overburdened, her needs are not being fulfilled, and an underlying mood disorder may be brewing, says Sarah Oreck, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist and mom in Los Angeles.
The National Institute of Mental Health uses the terms clinical depression and major depressive disorder interchangeably to refer to a severely low mood that persists for an extended period. These disorders go beyond feeling overwhelmed or having “the blues,” causing what experts term functional impairment, meaning a person is unable to parent, work, or go about the day as they once did. This impairment can arise when certain risk factorsgenetic predisposition, personality, brain chemistry, a history of mental-health issues, or adverse life eventsconverge, explains Dr. Smith. In the case of postpartum depression, which afflicts roughly one in four new moms in the three years after they give birth, it can erupt from “hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and the burden of caring for a baby’s every need,” Dr. Oreck says.
If You Think Your Child Is Depressed
If you think your child may be depressed, it’s important to talk to them. Try to find out what’s troubling them and how they’re feeling.
Whatever is causing the problem, take it seriously. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it could be a major problem for your child.
If your child does not want to talk to you, let them know that you’re concerned about them and that you’re there if they need you.
Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust, such as another family member, a friend or someone at school.
It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who know your child, including their other parent.
You could also contact their school to ask if the staff have any concerns.
Psychotic Depression In Children
Some children will develop signs of psychosis along with their depression. A child might have hallucinations. The child might be very paranoid. The child might develop all sorts of bizarre and unusual ideas. Psychotic Depression is the most serious type of depression. It is also quite uncommon..
Example of Psychotic Depression in Children
Shelly is 14. Since Christmas, she has not been herself. She knows she is no good. She tells her parents that everyone hates her and says bad things about her. They call her all sorts of obscene things and she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. She wants to just get away from them forever. At home she just eats, sleeps, listens to music and occasionally irritates her sister. So her mom decided to go to school and see what was going on. Amazingly, no one had noticed any teasing, but they had noticed that Shelly was much more withdrawn and inattentive in school. The next day she was able to get Shelly to come with her and go shopping. As they went in mall, Shelly was telling her mom, “Do you see what I mean? Listen to those two girls over there.” Shelly couldn’t stand it more than a few minutes. She pointed out to her mother a couple groups of kids who were saying bad things about her and talking behind her back. She noticed that they had scratched “Shelly sucks” on the window. Shelly’s mom did not see or hear any of this. Shelly’s mom saw something far worse. She saw that her daughter was very, very ill.
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Think Together About Whether Theres Anything In Particular Thats Making Them Feel This Way
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?
Depression In Preschoolers: Seeking Help
Where should worried parents turn for help? “You could go to the pediatrician, but you might have to educate your pediatrician a bit,” Luby says, noting that not all are aware that depression can strike as young as age 3.
Parents might also seek help from a mental health provider, she says.
Although antidepressant medication is a mainstay of treating adult depression, it should never be given to preschoolers, she says. “Absolutely not to medication,” she tells parents. It’s not been tested in young children.
“Psychotherapy is recommended,” she says, “in the kids’ case, play therapy.”
Luby is in the process of testing a modified version of a treatment called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy or PCIT that was originally designed for children with a conduct disorder.
In PCIT, parents of children with conduct disorders are taught to work with the child to improve pro-social behavior and reduce negative behavior. Luby is testing a version that focuses on teaching parents to enhance a child’s emotional development. The thought is that early changes in emotional development skills could help with the depression.
She is hoping that early intervention will prove more effective than waiting and that the gains will be sustained in later childhood. She is studying the approach with 300 children, including some with depression, some with other mental health issues, and some healthy comparison children.
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What Causes Depression In Children
As in adults, depression in children can be caused by any combination of things 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.
Depression In A Three Year Old
I was just diagnosed with a mild case of postpartum depression, seven months after birth. I was always able to take care of the kids, the house, etc, but there was clearly more withdrawal , and probably more negativity and time outs than I care to admit. Having said that, we have a beautiful boy who turned three a couple of months ago. He is super bright and super verbal…and very, very sensitive. For the last month, or longer, he has displayed almost every symptom of childhood depression….physical complaints, low energy, not enjoying play, variations in appetite, clingy, irritable. He aske me to hold him constantly, and his preschool teacher said he doesn’t seem to enjoy anything and seems weak and tired. He sleeps through the night, but does wake occasionally and walk in to our room. However, he usually goes right back to sleep. Of course, my main concern is that my depression and anxiety, coupled with his temperament, has caused this. The doctor this morning ordered some lab work but said he suspects nothing will turn up, and he suggested a developmental evaluation. Any thoughts? His behavior is depleting us…and we are so worried about him. Just to add to this…where we live overseas, three year olds start preschool five days a week from 8 until 2. I was horrified when I learned this but yes, he just started, and it is overwhelming for him…he walks in to a room with thirty five other kids each morning and begs me to stay…
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Signs In Boys Vs Girls
The symptoms of autism are generally the same for both boys and girls. However, because autism is diagnosed in boys far more often than girls , classic symptoms are often described in a skewed manor.
For example, an excessive interest in trains, the wheels on trucks, or strange dinosaur trivia is often very noticeable. A girl who doesnt play with trains, trucks, or dinosaurs might display less noticeable behaviors, like arranging or dressing dolls in a particular way.
High-functioning girls also have an easier time mimicking average social behaviors. Social skills may be more innate in girls, which can make impairments less noticeable.
What Is The Prognosis For Depression In Children
- Depression can be chronic, in that 85% of people who have one episode of the disorder will have another one within 15 years of the first episode.
- Depressed individuals exposed to trauma are less likely to respond to treatment with antidepressant medication than those who have not experienced trauma.
- Young people with depression are more likely to develop severe mental illness during adulthood compared to children who do not suffer from depression.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people over 5 years of age, particularly for females.
- Childhood depression is a risk factor for a number of potentially negative outcomes, like academic and interpersonal problems, as well as issues with drugs and attempting suicide and engaging in other forms of self-harm.
- Since early treatment of childhood depression improves the prognosis, improving access to care promotes a better prognosis.
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Work With Your Childs Treatment Team
If you suspect your child has depression, speak to his pediatrician or a mental health professional. Depression is treatable, but without appropriate intervention, it may get worse. Treatment may include therapy, parent training, or medication.
Work with treatment providers to learn about the steps you can take to best support your childs mental health. Inquire about the specific strategies you should use to address behavior problems like non-compliance and disrespect.
How Do I Know If A Child Is Depressed
Some common symptoms of depression among children include:
Parents must take note of these sudden changes in behaviour among their children. If several of these symptoms are present for at least two weeks, they can suggest depression. If such behaviour persists, parents must immediately act.
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Antidepressants And Suicidal Thinking
While antidepressants can be an effective way to treat childhood depression, their use has been linked to serious side effects, such as suicidal thinking in people under age 25. Though this side effect is rare, the Food and Drug Administration now requires that all antidepressants carry a black box warning about this increased risk of suicide.
This does not mean that antidepressants should not be used by people in this age group. It simply means that they should be carefully monitored by doctors and caregivers, particularly in the first few weeks after starting an antidepressant.
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
How Can I Find Help For My Child
If youre concerned that your child might be depressed, start with your pediatrician or other primary care provider. Some clinics and health centers will have in-house mental health services, and you may be able to have your child seen there. Some doctors will have links to local therapists with experience with young children. Mental health specialists can be in short supply , so be open to the possibility of care being delivered remotely, through telehealth. Dr. Kovacs also suggested that parents who are looking for treatment consider clinical psychology department clinics at a local university, where students in psychology and counseling are supervised by licensed psychologists she said such clinics often have good availability.
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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.
The Effects On Children
For parents with depression, there are the obvious detrimental symptomsemotional pain, lack of motivation, loss of joy in once-joyful activitiesand even physical troubles such as gastrointestinal distress and reduced immunity. But research has found that children of depressed parents are about three times as likely to suffer from major depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse as children whose parents hadn’t been depressed.
All kids have developmental needs that include feeling securely attached to a safe, caring adult and having a caregiver who is both physically and emotionally present and can model adequate coping mechanisms, says LaToya Gaines, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and former school psychologist in New York City. Untreated mental-health concerns can threaten a parent’s ability to fulfill these needs. “When we’re depressed, we have difficulty connecting,” says Kristen Granchalek, LCSW, a Chicago-based therapist specializing in women’s issues, anxiety, and emotional reactivity. “Our faces don’t respond in a way that mirrors our children’s emotions, which they need for healthy development and to feel cared for.” With anxiety, kids can absorb their parent’s chronic worrying and, says Granchalek, “internalize the belief that the world is not okay.”
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Comorbid Depression In Children
Comorbidity means that certain disorders occur more often together than one would expect by chance. For example, diabeties and obesity. The concept of comorbidity is very important in psychiatry. It is very common that a person with depression will also have another childhood neuropsychiatric disorder.
In this situation, a child has a preexisting chronic psychiatric illness and then becomes depressed. The episode of depression occurs along with the other disorder so that the child actually shows signs of two or three psychiatric disorders at the same time. About 50% of children with depression also have conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, 40% of children with depression have anxiety disorder, and 25% of children with depression have attention deficit disorder. Often the episode of depression will go away and leave the other psychiatric problem unchanged.
Depression In Preschoolers: More Perspective
Early intervention for depression in preschoolers is crucial, says Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, dean and Distinguished Foundation Professor in Nursing at Arizona State University, Phoenix, and an advocate for teens‘ and children’s mental health. She reviewed the update for WebMD.
Parents should be aware that some young children with depression are initially misdiagnosed, she says. “Because young children with mood disorders can get restless, hyperactive, and irritable when depressed, misdiagnosis — for example, ADHD — is common,” she says.
The risk of depression in preschoolers is higher, when parents have a history of depression, she says.
Ignoring or denying depression at any age is hazardous, Melnyk says. “It is critical to assess for and identify depression in children of all ages so that early interventions can be implemented.”
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Can Children Really Have Depression
Yes. Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that children go through as they develop. Just because a child seems sad doesn’t necessarily mean they have significant depression. But if the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may mean they have a depressive illness. Keep in mind that while depression is a serious illness, itâs also a treatable one.
Signs And Symptoms Of Depression In Children
If you notice any of the following signs in your child, and these signs last longer than about two weeks, your child might have depression.
Changes in your childs emotions or behaviour You might notice that your child:
- seems sad or unhappy most of the time
- is aggressive, wont do what you ask most of the time, or has a lot of temper tantrums
- says negative things about themselves for example, Im not good at anything or No-one at school likes me
- feels guilty for example, your child might say Its always my fault
- is afraid or worried a lot
- keeps saying their tummy or head hurts, and these problems dont seem to have a physical or medical cause.
Changes in your childsinterest in everyday activities You might notice that your child:
- doesnt have as much energy as they usually do
- doesnt want to be around friends and family
- isnt interested in playing or doing things they used to enjoy
- has problems sleeping, including nightmares
- has problems concentrating, remembering things or making simple decisions.
Changes in your childs behaviour or academic performance at school If your child is at school, you might also notice that your child:
- isnt going so well academically
- isnt taking part in school activities
- has problems fitting in at school or getting along with other children.
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How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated In Children
Children with severe bipolar disorder-like symptoms are often treated with psychotherapy and a combination of medicines. The medications usually include a mood stabilizing medicine sometimes in combination with an antidepressant.
Antidepressants need to be used with caution in children with suspected bipolar disorder because they have a small but significant risk for triggering mania .