As mothers, we sometimes want to tell our children to “buck up” and “stop pouting” when they are feeling down. Depression in children is a serious matter, however. Five percent of children experience clinical depression at some point in their lives. Females are twice as likely to suffer from depression. Parents need to be on the lookout for the signs of depression, especially early on. The sooner the disorder is caught, the better it can be treated, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The incidence of depression in children increases with age. Children ages 1 through 6 rarely suffer from depression. Children ages 6 through 12 have a greater chance of becoming depressed. Almost 5 percent of all teenagers suffer from depression, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The signs and symptoms of depression in children can vary greatly. Some children may become very withdrawn and quiet. Others may lash out in anger and act out in school. Young children in particular may complain of physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches. Older children and teens may attempt to run away from home, skip school or quit a job. Some of the early signs of depression in children include decreased appetite, sadness, boredom and an unwillingness to do activities previously enjoyed. Children that are beginning to suffer from depression may also make excuses in order to avoid being with friends and family members.
It’s tricky to diagnose depression in children. The early signs of depression can sometimes be attributed to other things such as a virus or hormonal changes. For these reasons, a diagnosis of depression in children is usually dependent on whether or not the behavioral changes have hindered the child’s ability to function normally. Most particularly, changes in everyday activities such as a child’s sleep patterns, eating habits and school performance may signify depression, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Treatment varies widely depending on the age of the child and the severity of the depression. Mild depression is usually treated with psychotherapy. This includes both individual and family counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy are both used in treating depression in children, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Family counseling can help the family learn how to cope with the effects of depression. In older children and teens who suffer from severe depression, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed.
Depression is not something that can usually be “solved.” Treatment needs to be ongoing. Relapses in children and adolescents are common, according to the University of Louisville. Parents need to continually monitor their children for signs of depression and maintain open and caring lines of communication. In addition, teachers and other caregivers need to be kept aware of your child’s diagnosis and the warning signs of the disease.