Blog Post

18 April 2018

Is My Child Depressed? 5 Signs Parents Should Watch For

For parents, the relatively pressure-free life of a child or teenager can seem like a walk in the park in comparison to the busy and fast-paced lives adults live. But children and teenagers often struggle with the same issues that adults do, including depression. Though, the symptoms in depression in adolescents are different that than ones that are displayed by adults.

Childhood depression medically defined by a persistent and unending sadness. When it occurs, the child feels lonely, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When this type of sadness is prolonged it can create problems throughout all of the elements of a child’s life. Depression interferes with the child’s daily activities, schoolwork, and peer relationships.

It’s important for parents to be aware of the signs of depression in children. The presence of one of the symptoms of depression does not always mean that your child is depressed, but it does indicate that the child is at least at risk of depression, and warrants seeking assistance from a mental health professional.

Here are 5 signs that your child may be depressed:

1. Prolonged Sadness

Children and teens will have good and bad days. But if your child is displaying prolonged periods of sadness (About 2 weeks), it may be a sign that they’re depressed. If you observe that your child is experiencing a bout of sadness, try and talk with them and offer support. If they’re not being open in their communication with you, it may be time to turn to a mental health professional.

2. Change in Weight or Eating Habits

Studies have found that there is a strong correlation between obesity and depression in children. The two issues are treated as separate health problems, but they share a number of symptoms. If your child is experiencing weight gain and has become obese, depression could be at play.

A change in eating habits is also a symptom of depression in youth. Eating habit changes include both an increase in food, or a variation of the type of food, your child is consuming, or it can be due to a decrease in the amount of food consumed, which can result in an eating disorder.

3. Problems Sleeping

Regardless of age, humans need to get sleep. Without an adequate amount of sleep each night, a person can expose themselves to a number of troubling health conditions. For children and teens, insomnia and oversleeping are signs that they might be depressed.  If your child is sleeping too much or too little, or is exhibiting a significant decrease in activity, you should arrange for them to visit with a medical provider to diagnose the cause of the sleep-related issues, and to get them back on path to receiving regular sleep.

4. Volatile Mood and Behavior

Another sign that your child may be depressed is that their mood and behavior is volatile. A depressed child’s mood and behavior can swiftly change. A child can go from cheerful and positive to deeply sad or angry in mere minutes.

The changes in mood can occur both because the child is provoked or becomes upset in response to something, or seemingly out of the blue.  A child suffering from depression is often irritable, which will make their ability to manage their emotions very difficult, leading to emotional outbursts or fits.

5. Struggles at School

There are a number of reasons why a student may experience declining performance at school, and one of the more common reasons is depression. If a child is depressed, they may struggle to concentrate on their work, or may lack the motivation to do the work required to excel in class. Depression doesn’t just impact academics for children, it can also reveal itself through a   lack of participation in athletics, organizations, clubs, and other extracurricular activities.

Treating Depression in Children

If your child is displaying some of the symptoms on this list, or is otherwise appearing withdrawn or persistently withdrawn, do your best make sure your child feels supported and loved. Make yourself available to them to talk, and most importantly, to listen. If you child does not appear to be shaking free of the symptoms of depression, first take a visit to their medical provider. There are a number of medical conditions and medications that include depression as a side effect. Before receiving care from a mental health professional, you’ll want to rule out that your child’s depression is a side effect of another medical condition or medication.

If a child does see a mental health professional and is diagnosed with depression, there are two primary forms of treatment: psychotherapy and pharmacology. Psychotherapy, or counseling, is treats depression in children through a mental health professional helping a child work through their emotions and feelings. Pharmacology treats depression through the prescribing medications.

Treating Depression in Children at Family Psychiatry of North Jersey

Each individual case of depression in children will call for a different treatment method. For some children, psychotherapy is the right solution for treating depression. For more serious cases, both psychotherapy and pharmacology are required for treatment.

If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression, schedule an appointment to have them evaluated by our team of mental health professionals.