People of all ages can suffer from depression. Although many parents do not want to admit it, their children can become depressed and it is important that they be able to understand the causes of childhood depression, recognize its signs and be able to access good treatment for their child should it strike. It is now believed that as many as 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable emotional, behavioral or mental disorder. Childhood depression is one of the most common mental disorders seen in children.
Many children can become depressed for many different reasons including early developmental experiences and as a response to external stressors. Depression in children will often be exhibited by silence and a refusal to talk to parents about something that is obviously bothering them a great deal. Because of this, the signs of childhood depression can often be quite insidious and oftentimes parents will just assume that their child is going through a phase of development.
Because mental disorders in children are extremely complex, they are often very difficult to diagnose. This is why if you suspect that your child is becoming or is depressed you should always consult a qualified mental health professional.
Some symptoms of childhood depression include extreme bouts of anger directed either externally or internally, extreme sadness in very young children that does not have an obvious explanation such as the death of a beloved grandparent or a pet, difficulty sleeping or an increase in nightmares, extreme lethargy and/or a sudden disinterest in things that used to interest them a great deal. Childhood depression can be exhibited following a major family disruption such as a divorce or a separation of the parents. In all cases, the biggest sign of a depressed child is a sudden change in behavior. If you notice this in your child, you should be alert to other possible symptoms such as complaints of headaches, extreme sudden bouts of tiredness, extreme expressions of guilt feelings, or sudden difficulty managing interpersonal relationship with people who were previously good friends.
Because depression affects the whole family, it often a good idea for the family to engage in family counseling. There are many different treatment modalities available for children suffering from depression. Most parents opt for counseling options before resorting to pharmaceutical treatments. A skilled psychiatrist or psychologist will be able to help your child and you should not feel that you have failed because you are not able to get your child to “snap out of it.” Depression is a serious mental health concern and rarely just goes away on its own. It needs intervention by a professional to get to the root of the cause. If your child has been exposed to difficulty in the home because of a divorce some simple therapy in conflict negotiation might help a great deal.
If traditional “talk therapy” does not seem to be helping your child, her therapist might suggest medication. While medication is a very useful tool for treating depression in adults its use is controversial in children. Some anti-depressant medications can cause serious suicidal feelings in patients under the age of 18 so they should be used only with extreme caution.