Not only adults become depressed. Children and teenagers also may have depression as well. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness.
Depression is defined as an illness when the feelings of depression persist and interfere with a child or adolescent’s ability to function.
About five percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families.
The behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults. Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in their youngsters.
If one or more of these signs of depression persist, parents should seek help:
Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
Persistent boredom; low energy
Social isolation, poor communication
Low self esteem and guilt
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
Difficulty with relationships
Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Talk of or efforts to run away from home
Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior
A child who used to play often with friends may now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children and adolescents who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and adolescents are at increased risk for committing suicide. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way of trying to feel better.
Children and adolescents who cause trouble at home or at school may also be suffering from depression. Because the youngster may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression. When asked directly, these children can sometimes state they are unhappy or sad.
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for depressed children. Depression is a real illness that requires professional help. Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are forms of individual therapy shown to be effective in treating depression. Treatment may also include the use of antidepressant medication. For help, parents should ask their physician to refer them to a qualified mental health professional, who can diagnose and treat depression in children and teenagers.
For more information: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/the_depressed_child