Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how your child feels, thinks and handles daily activities. Depression is not a passing mood, nor is it a condition that will go away without proper treatment. That being said, while depression is a serious illness, it is also treatable.
Do Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Really Suffer from Depression?
Depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that children, adolescents and young adults experience as they develop. Just because they seem sad doesn't necessarily mean your child has significant depression. If the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork or family life it may indicate that your child has a depressive illness.
How Can I Tell if My Child Is Depressed?
Diagnosing depression isn’t a straightforward science. We can’t test for it the same way we can test blood sugar levels for diabetes. Symptoms often go undiagnosed and untreated because they are looked upon as normal emotional and psychological changes. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, feelings of hopelessness and mood changes—though symptoms often overlap.
Common signs and / or symptoms of depression can include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Irritability or anger
- Increased sensitivity to rejection
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble or not paying attention in class)
- Social withdrawal (from parents and regular friends)
- Decreased energy, sluggishness or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite and / or weight changes
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Not caring about appearance
- Running away from home
- Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
- Aches, pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and / or that do not ease even with treatment
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. In fact, most will display different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, most children with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school, poor academic performance or a change in appearance.
How Is Depression Diagnosed and What Are the Treatment Options?
There are no specific medical tests that can clearly show depression, but tools such as questionnaires, for both the child and parents, combined with gathering personal information, can be very useful in helping diagnose depression in children.
Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier treatment can begin, the more effective it is. One of our most preferred paths to success is helping your child manage their life proactively through the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
We use Dialectical Behavior Therapy to identify and change thinking patterns and unhealthy behaviors that negatively affect quality of life, teaching your child how to develop new skills to effectively cope with stress, manage emotions, decrease conflict, improve relationships with others, focus on the present and live in the moment. We then help your child practice these skills so they can apply what they have learned at home, school, work and in the community to achieve their goals, improve upon their well-being, and effect lasting positive change.
If You Think Your Child is Depressed, Get Help Today!
As a parent, it is sometimes easier to deny that your child has depression than to deal with the issue at hand. You may put off seeking the help of a mental health care professional due to the social stigmas associated with mental illness. It is very important for you to understand depression and realize the importance of treatment so that your child may continue to grow physically and emotionally in a healthy way.