How to Spot Depression in Children

Depression may show specific signs in kids and teens

(RxWiki News) In kids and teens, severe depression is a real risk to health and well-being. Learn how to spot the signs of depression in your child.

Serious depression is not a bad or sad mood that will resolve itself with time. It is a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition that affects young people in all corners of society, and it can lead to serious risks — even self-harm and suicide. The American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that around 5 percent of kids between the ages of 13 and 18 have severe depression.

Because depression can lead to such harmful outcomes in kids and adolescents, it's important to catch it early and treat it when possible. Earlier treatment of depression may help children avoid the most negative outcomes of this serious mental health problem.

Below, learn the signs of depression in children and how to spot them.

Irritability and Anxiety

A 2016 study found that feelings of anxiety and fear were some of the most common precursors to the onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) in adolescents. You may notice anxiety and irritability in your child, or they may discuss these feelings with you.

Lingering Feelings of Hopelessness or Sadness

If your child appears to have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, they may be experiencing depression. Whether your child discusses these feelings with you or you notice them independently, be sure to reach out to your family health care provider.

Changes in Appetite or Sleep

Reduced or increased sleep and eating are classic signs of depression in young people. Without other symptoms, changes to diet and sleep may be harmless or suggest a separate condition, so be sure to seek advice from a health care professional.

Trouble Focusing

According to the Cleveland Clinic, many children and teens who have MDD may struggle to focus during activities that require some level of concentration, such as school.

Physical Issues That Don't Resolve with Treatment

A child whose stomach aches or similar physical pains won't go away with medical treatment may actually be dealing with a mental problem rather than a physical one. Mental health issues can sometimes show themselves in physical ways, so it's important to take your child's symptoms seriously even if you think they are nothing.

Decreased Ability to Enjoy Daily Activities

In both children and adults, the sudden inability or decreased ability to enjoy tasks that make up everyday life, such as visiting with friends, is a highly typical sign of depression.

Reduced Energy and Fatigue

If your child is suddenly sluggish or overly tired without explanation, this could be a sign of depression. Speak with your child and their health care provider.

Feelings of Worthlessness and Discussion of Self-Harm

Self-harm and feelings of worthlessness are common signs of severe depression. Any discussion of self-harm or suicide must always be taken seriously. Parents who overhear their children discussing self-harm or feelings of worthlessness should immediately contact the family health care provider.

If you are concerned about your child's risk of depression or overall mental health, seek mental health treatment for your child right away.

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Review Date: 
August 26, 2020