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How Do I Know If My Child Is Depressed

Anxiety And Depression In Children

How Do I Help My Son with his Depression?

Find information and resources for parents on how to help children cope

Learn about recommendations for school-based cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce depression and anxiety symptomsexternal icon.

Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Because the symptoms primarily involve thoughts and feelings, they are sometimes called internalizing disorders.

Looking After Yourself When Your Child Has Depression

Its not your fault if your child develops depression.

It can be really hard for you to see your child feeling upset, sad or withdrawn for a long time. In families, the way one person is feeling and behaving can affect other family members.

Although its easy to focus on looking after your child, its important to look after your own health and wellbeing too. Consider seeking professional help for yourself if stresses and worries are affecting your everyday life. Your GP is a good person to talk with.

If youre physically and mentally well, youll be better able to care for your child.

Talking to other parents can also be a great way to get support. You can connect with other parents in similar situations by joining a face-to-face or an online parent support group.

Your Child’s Safety Is Your Number One Priority

If your child or teen is engaging in behaviors that cause you concern for their immediate safety such as discussing plans for suicide or other forms of self-harm immediately take them to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Your child’s safety is the top priority. “Better safe than sorry” should be your guiding philosophy in such situations.

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Is My Child Depressed

Symptoms of depression can vary in children and are different from a temporary change in mood or sadness. If your child displays signs of depression lasting more than two weeks, or if symptoms seem to occur around the same time as certain stressors or at certain times of the week , anxiety or depression may be the cause.

Who Can Treat Depression In Children

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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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Changes In Sleep Patterns And Activity

Teens who have depression often show changes in their sleep patterns. Some of these teens may suddenly exhibit insomnia and have significant trouble sleeping, while others may sleep far more than usual, said Dr. Falcone.

She added that changes in activity level may also be a warning sign of depression in teens. Some teens may show slowed movements and a lower activity level than usual, while others may seem physically agitated and move more than usual, doing things like nervously pacing, chewing nails, or wringing the hands.

What Is The Therapy For Child Depression

The therapy for child depression is cognitive behavioral therapy . Therapists help kids feel welcome and supported. They have kids talk about what they think and feel. They may use stories, play, lessons, or workbooks. These tools can help children feel at ease and get the most from CBT. When possible, a child’s therapy includes their parent.

If a child has gone through a loss, trauma, or other difficult events, the therapy will include things that help a child heal from that, too. And if a parent is dealing with their own loss or depression, the child’s therapist can help them get the care and support they need.

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Medication Comes With Risks

Antidepressants were designed and tested on adults, so their impact on young, developing brains is not yet fully understood. Some researchers are concerned that exposure to drugs such as Prozac may interfere with normal brain developmentparticularly the way the brain manages stress and regulates emotion.

Antidepressants also come with risks and side effects of their own, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. They are also known to increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in some teenagers and young adults. Teens with bipolar disorder, a family history of bipolar disorder, or a history of previous suicide attempts are particularly vulnerable.

The risk of suicide is highest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment. Teenagers on antidepressants should be closely monitored for any sign that the depression is getting worse.

Teens on antidepressants: Red flags to watch out for

  • New or more thoughts/talk of suicide
  • Suicidal gestures or attempts
  • Hyperactive speech or behavior
  • Other unusual changes in behavior

How Do I Know If My Child Is Depressed

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Most people think of depression as an adult conditionor one found in preteen or teenaged children. However, depression can develop in younger children too and so its important for parents, caregivers, teachers and other adults to recognize the symptoms. In many cases, depression in children often presents itself differently than depression in adults. For example, where a depressed adult may have easily recognizable symptoms such as sadness, depressed children may simply appear to be irritable or angry. Because childhood depression can have a serious impact on a childs life, its important to be on the lookout for warning signs.

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Feeling Depressed Or Suffering From Depression

We often get mixed up between low mood and unhappiness and depression. The two things are very different. Depression isnt about feeling unhappy, its feeling youll never be happy again, explains Colin Grange, Psychologist and Clinical Director of Lifeworks.

If youre feeling low, is it starting to interfere with your day to day life? Are you not doing things that you used to do? Are you losing motivation in and enjoyment of life? Are you starting to not enjoy your hobbies? Is everything becoming an effort?

People suffering from clinical depression often experience a range of symptoms both physical and emotional which can interfere with day to day life. Discovering whether you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms could be an important step towards getting the help you need.

Quiz: Am I depressed?

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Learn About Therapy Options

Different kinds of therapies can help kids and teens with depression:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps kids recognize and change their negative beliefs or behaviors. This short-term therapy tends to involve 5 to 20 sessions.

  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships with other people. The goal is to help kids address problems so they can have healthier relationships.

  • Family therapy can be a helpful starting point for kids who say things like, Im not depressedI just hate my family. This type of therapy can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.

Its very important to find a therapist your child likes and trusts. Also, keep in mind that some therapists use a combination of techniques such as a mix of CBT and IPT.

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Tip : Take Care Of Yourself

As a parent, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed teen and neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. However, its extremely important that you continue to take care of yourself during this difficult time.

Above all, this means reaching out for much needed support. You cant do everything on your own so enlist the help of family and friends. Having your own support system in place will help you stay healthy and positive as you work to help your teen.

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Depression support, suicide prevention help

Depression support

In the U.S.: Find DBSA Chapters/Support Groups or call the NAMI Helpline for support and referrals at 1-800-950-6264

UK: Find Depression support groups in-person and online or call the Mind Infoline at 0300 123 3393

Australia: Find Support Groups and regional resources or call the SANE Help Centre at 1800 18 7263

Canada: Call Mood Disorders Society of Canada at 519-824-5565

India: Call the Vandrevala Foundation Helpline at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330

Suicide prevention help

In the U.S.: Call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

UK and Ireland: Call Samaritans UK at 116 123

Australia: Call Lifeline Australia at 13 11 14

Other countries: Visit IASP or International Suicide Hotlines to find a helpline near you

When To Seek Help

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Parents and guardians should seek out professional help if their children exhibit significant changes in behavior or if these symptoms last longer than two weeks. Talk to your family physician or schedule an appointment with a therapist. Depending on the situation, they may prescribe medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both to help your child. Schwenk says its important to let your kids know that no matter what theyre dealing with, it is okay and very brave to seek and ask for help!

Its also important to note that if left untreated, symptoms of depression can worsen and potentially lead to thoughts of suicide. If you think your child or adolescent is suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911 in case of an emergency.

Depression in children and teens is treatable. With the right tools, resources, and support, you can help your child recover and develop strong coping skills to build resilience in the face of difficult situations.

To learn more about identifying stress, anxiety, and depression in different age groups and what you can do to help, check out our webinar, How To: Support Your Kids as They Begin the 2020-21 School Year. You can also visit our Key Services page to learn more about the treatment methods we offer and to explore our list of additional health and wellness classes to support your childs overall mental health.

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What Are The Treatment Options

Treatment options for children with depression are similar to those for adults, including psychotherapy and medication. Your child’s doctor may suggest psychotherapy first and consider antidepressant medicine as an option if there is no significant improvement. The best studies to date show that a combination of psychotherapy and medication is most effective at treating depression.

But studies do show that the antidepressant fluoxetine is effective in treating depression in children and teens. The drug is officially recognized by the FDA for treatment of children ages 8 to 18 with depression.

Most medications used to treat depression in children have a black box warning about the possibility of increasing suicidal thoughts. It is important to start and monitor these medications under the care of a trained professional and talk with them about the potential risks and benefits for your child.

Treating children who have 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.

Whats The Difference Between Depression And Grief

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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When Should I Seek Help From A Mental Health Professional

Symptoms must persist for at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression to be made. Also, some medical conditions can mimic the symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out other medical causes before diagnosing depression.Please be wary of the following and seek support

If you see there is a major change in sleeping and eating habits.

If the child talks about or tries to run away from home.

If the child engages in substance abuse, seek the immediate help of a mental health professional.

If you notice self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviours immediately seek mental health assistance.

In these challenging times, make sure to create an environment of positivity at home to try to make children feel happy and relaxed.

Take care of yourself too – because if you are happy, your family will be happy.

Call CHILDLINE 1098 for assistance.UNICEF India worked with leading mental health and child protection experts to produce this series of articles for parents on mental health and children.

Can Children Really Have Depression

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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.

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Causes Of Teen Depression

Biological factors, such as genes, can increase a teens risk of developing depression. However, environmental and social conditions also have a role to play. The following factors may trigger or exacerbate symptoms of depression in your teen:

Bullying.Being bullied by peers can add stress to a teens life and affect their self-esteem. This can, in turn, trigger feelings of intense helplessness and hopelessness.

Other mental and physical health conditions. Teen depression is associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, ADHD, or a learning disorder. The struggles that accompany these conditions may lead a teen to feel unconfident and frustrated when it comes to academics and socializing. Similarly, physical disabilities or chronic illness can also play a role.

Past and present stressful experiences. Past trauma from violent or abusive situations can put teens at risk of depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder . Recent events, such as the loss of a loved one, can also trigger a depressed mood.

Lack of social support. Teens who feel unsupported by family or peers are at risk of depression. For example, a teen may be struggling with their sexual identity in a hostile or unaccepting environment.

Depression and social media use

Child Depression Ages 6

Children, like adults also suffer from depression, although their symptoms may not be the same. Additionally, children respond well to treatment. Depression is defined as an illness when the feelings of depression persist and interfere with a child or adolescents ability to function.

About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attention problems, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families.

The behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults. Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in their youngsters.

Signs of depression in children. If one or more of these signs of depression persist, parents should seek help:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying.
  • Persistent boredom low energy.
  • Low self esteem and guilt.
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility.
  • Difficulty with relationships.
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches.
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school.
  • Poor concentration.
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns.
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home.
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior.


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What Causes Child Depression

Different things can lead to depression. There is no single cause. Some children have genes that make them more sensitive to depression. They may have other family members who have been depressed.

Some children go through stressful things. Some have faced loss, trauma, or hardships. Some go through serious health conditions. These things can lead to sadness or grief and sometimes to depression.

Having extra support during and after hard times helps protect children from depression or lessen the effects. But even when they have good support, some children get depressed. Therapy can help them heal, feel better, and get back to enjoying things.

Learn More About Depression In Children

What You Need to Know About Child &  Teenage Depression

Children’s Health offers one of the most comprehensive specialty programs available for children and teens who need mental health services, staffed by experts with access to the latest research and treatments for depression and other mood disorders. Learn more about our Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology services.

You can also access emotional care and support from the comfort of your home with Virtual Visit Behavioral Health. With a behavioral health care appointment, you can speak to a board-certified psychiatrist or licensed therapist using video technology. Learn more about Virtual Visit Behavioral Health.

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