Life brings with it ups and down, disappointments and victories, sadness and jubilation – not only for adults but for children too. So just because a child feels sad or irritable doesn’t mean they have childhood depression. For a child, the stresses of growing up – peer pressure, divorce, school, relationships – are all very real. Some children are more resilient than others or may have a strong support system in place to help them through hard or stressful times. Childhood depression, on the other hand, is a serious mental health condition that requires medical attention and treatment. The symptoms of childhood depression can vary from child to child; some symptoms may be more severe than others, and many times, children try to hide their symptoms so they won’t “disappoint” or feel burdensome to their families and teachers, or appear sad or out of sorts with their peers. The following are some signs that your child might be suffering from childhood depression. If you notice any of these signs at home, contact your child’s doctor so they can be properly diagnosed, cared for, and treated by a medical professional.
Sudden increase or decrease in appetite.
Losing interest in food is one sign of depression; it could be that your child is simply exuding less energy and has no appetite or the loss of interest could be due to social concerns. On the other hand, an increase in appetite could signal that your child is finding comfort in food. Either one of these signs are of concern and could lead to an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Watch for signs in diet, as well as sudden weight loss or gain. Your pediatrician will be able to help determine if the change in appetite has to do with growth spurts, metabolism, or depression.
Hormones, puberty, or maybe finding out a crush isn’t panning out. Expect lots of tears in children. But if this crying is accompanied by mood swings or crying for no reason, this may be a sign of depression and should be checked out.
Changes in sleep patterns.
Growing kids need their rest. However, if your child is sleeping too much or not enough and there is no reason you can see (such as all night text sessions or catching up on homework) depression may be the cause.
Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Everyone feels down and disappointed. But the constant feeling of hopelessness and sadness can mean depression. Is your child losing interest in her favorite things or pastimes? Does she pass on parties or activities she once loved? If the problem is more than a shift in peer group and the malaise has taken over, see a pediatrician.’
Depression often changes the way we process information. With children, don’t assume that difficulty focusing is ADHD or just being lazy in school. Depression can cause poor concentration because the our brain’s ability to process data rapidly and efficiently is impacted by depression. This may cause problems in school, on sports team, and at home, where you may think your child’s lack of focus is disrespect. If your child is having trouble concentrating and is showing any other signs of depression, get it check out.
Low energy and fatigue
Anger and irritability
Such as stomach aches and headaches (especially ones that don’t respond to treatment).
Poor academic performance
Warning Signs of Suicide
Left untreated, it is possible for childhood depression to lead to suicide. Although uncommon in children under 12, some young children do attempt suicide. Therefore, it is important to be aware of signs that may indicate that your child is at risk for suicide. Some of these symptoms include: frequent accidents, risk-taking behaviors, social isolation, substance abuse, and talking about death and dying. If your child exhibits these behaviors, consult a medical professional immediately.
Childhood depression is a serious health condition. If left untreated, it increases your child’s risk for more severe depression in the future. Therefore, it is critical to take the warning signs of depression seriously and to get your child the treatment they need. If you think your child may be suffering from childhood depression, you do not have to go through this alone. Childhood depression can be assessed, diagnosed, and treated using a combination of psychotherapy and/or medication. Effective treatment options for childhood depression have been widely tested and proven effective through several scientific studies over the years. It may take time and involve some trial and error to see what works for your child; however, if you remain patient and trust in the process, you can get your child the help they need in order to have a happy and fulfilled childhood.
If you suspect your child is suffering from childhood depression, the doctors at Children’s Health Care in Massachusetts are here to help. At CHC, we are child-centered and family-focused. We take pride in offering personalized and compassionate care for the whole child. Our trusted providers will help your child achieve complete mind and body well-being as they develop into healthy adults. To make an appointment, call your preferred pediatric office in Newburyport or Haverhill.