Depression in Children: How to HelpLeave a Comment
Depression in children is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and sometimes irritability. It is a serious medical illness as it is one of the leading causes of disease and injury in both girls and boys worldwide. While all children have fears and will feel sad from time to time, sometimes strong fears appear at different times of development. For examples, some toddlers are often very distressed at the idea of being apart from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Fears and worries are typical in children for this reason, but persistent or extreme forms of sadness and fear could be depression. Some children may not talk about hopeless thoughts, and they may not appear sad. Depression might also cause a child to cause trouble or act unmotivated. Because of this, others might not notice that the child is depressed or may incorrectly label the child as a trouble-maker or lazy. The World Health Organization has claimed the theme for 2017’s World Health Day is depression. Learn more about how to recognize childhood depression and the steps to take in case depression enters your home.
What is Depression?
Depression can happen to anyone at any time. It is a change in the brain’s chemistry that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, inactivity, and irritability. Extreme depression unchecked can lead a child to think about suicide. Read more about youth suicide prevention here.
Below are some behaviors and symptoms of depression in children:
- Lack of interest or joy in doing fun things
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Changes in eating patterns
- Difficulty focusing
- Feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, and guilt
- Changes in energy
- Self-injury and self-destructive behavior
What To Do If You Suspect A Child Is Depressed
The first step to treatment is to talk with your child’s healthcare provider to get an evaluation. This is because the symptoms of depression in children manifest differently from adults and elders and can be confused with other conditions. For example, some of the signs and symptoms of depression in children are shared with trauma and ADHD. A consultation with your child’s pediatrician can affirm diagnosis. Your child’s provider can also help determine if medication or therapy should be a part of the treatment plan and offer options for support.
Preventing Depression in Children
It’s unknown as to exactly why children develop depression as many factors play a role such as biology, situations, and temperament. We do know that some children are more prone to develop persistent feelings of sadness when they experience trauma, stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have depression.
A healthy, happy childhood is important for all children, especially those with depression. Along with proper pediatric care, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Below are examples of healthy behaviors that may help prevent depression or help alleviate your child’s symptoms.
- Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age
- Participating in physical activities for at least an hour a day
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a focus on fruits, vegetables, & whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats
- Practicing relaxation, body awareness, or mindfulness techniques such as yoga or stretching, meditating, breathing, or dance
To learn more about depression in children and what you can do to help, click here. If you suspect your child is depressed, click here to schedule a consultation with one of our pediatricians.