Depression is typically associated with adults, but childhood depression is also a genuine and often elusive illness. So, what is child depression? Depression in children is often misunderstood as irritability or sadness, but it can be highly disruptive and stressful for the child and the caregivers. If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing depression, there are several questions you can ask yourself and your child to help determine if it is indeed depression your child is suffering with. If your child displays the symptoms and signs of depression, regardless of age, it is essential to seek medical help as soon as possible.
The Warning Signs
One of the most critical questions relating to child depression is whether there are warning signs and what they are. Identifying the warning signs is the first step in knowing that something may be wrong with your child’s emotional state. Some of the typical warning signs for childhood depression may include:
- Angry outbursts
- Significant weight loss, weight gain or the inability to gain the age-appropriate amount of weight
- Unexplainable sadness
- Irritable mood
- Loss of interest in the activities they once enjoyed
- Change in sleeping patterns, including difficulty falling or staying asleep and sleeping too much
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurrent thoughts and verbalizing feelings about death and suicide
What is Child Depression, and is it Different from Sadness?
It is perfectly normal for even the happiest children to become sad occasionally. However, there is a difference between the levels of depression and sadness. It is essential to try and determine if your child is sad due to an environmental factor, such as the death of a pet or family member or if the child is a teenager, it may be related to a recent breakup. However, if your child seems sad all the time and cannot get over the sadness, refuses to go to school or play with friends and displays other symptoms such as problems with weight or sleeping, it may be that your child is experiencing depression.
What do I do if my Child is Depressed?
If you suspect your child may suffer from depression, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. There are several ways to seek help, such as talking with your child’s pediatrician, a school counselor or a local facility specializing in adolescent mental health. It is essential to seek guidance and counseling from someone you and your child trust and feel comfortable with. In many situations, the best place to start is by speaking to your family physician or your child’s pediatrician, as they can provide you with recommendations from local counselors who specialize in treating children.
When researching mental health care providers for your child, it is important to ensure the person is a perfect fit. Not all mental health professionals are the same; some treat children and adults, and they vary widely in the type of treatment they specialize in. It is important to ask questions, including their experience with dealing with depressed children, their training, and the type of therapy they typically recommend. The type of treatment used is very important in getting your child the help they need. Psychologists and therapists commonly and effectively utilize cognitive behavioural and interpersonal psychotherapy therapies. If your child is visiting a psychiatrist, it is important to discuss the types of medications they may prescribe and request that therapy also be utilized along with medications.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent of a child suffering from depression is to be there. It would help if you talked with the child regularly about anything and everything for your child’s safety and future health. A child needs to know that he is being heard, so remember that listening and hearing are two entirely different things. Hearing your child means you are relating to acknowledging what the child is saying. It is important that you not lash out at the child for sleeping too much, not eating correctly or not participating in normal activities. When your child displays these signs, it is extremely important to talk with the child and seek medical attention as soon as possible.