Can children suffer from depression? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Many adults fail to understand child and teen depression. This is because many people believe that depression is an adult illness, but this is simply not the case. Depression, even serious depression, can be experienced by children and teenagers.
All children experience ups and downs. If your child is frequently sad, irritable, or worried, or if you have noticed a significant change in behavior of a once happy child it may be appropriate to have your child assessed by a therapist. An assessment allows us to know if your child or teen is experiencing more than the normal mood changes that we would expect in childhood or adolescence.
Depression in children and teens looks different
Childhood and teen depression looks different than depression in adults and is often missed or dismissed by parents and teachers. Researchers have found that children and teenagers who are depressed are more likely to display irritability rather than sadness.
In many cases, younger children and teenagers don’t talk about their feelings. Some children are embarrassed to express what they are feeling and thinking, others have difficulty putting their feelings into words, while still others are concerned about the adults in their life and do not want to upset them. If mom and dad are going through their own difficulties the child may not want to burden them with their own distress.
When children and teens do not talk about their emotions, they often signal distress through behavior. They may withdraw from family members and peers. They may become irritable and angry or cry easily. Children suffering from emotional difficulties often experience physical symptoms such as headache, upset stomach, or other physical complaints.
If you think your child or teenager may be depressed it is important to have them assessed by a professional.
Here are some signs and symptoms you should be alert to:
Outbursts of anger and irritability.
Withdrawal from friends, siblings, and parents.
Sustained feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Episodes of crying.
Loss of appetite or increased eating.
Excessive sleep, low energy, dropping of extracurricular activities.
Problems focusing on school work.
Repeated headaches, complaints about an upset stomach, and other physical ailments.
Early treatment for child and teen depression is important
If your child is often sad, irritated, anxious, or angry it is important to look deeper so you can find out if your child needs help. Understanding child and teen depression is necessary for all caregivers of children and teens. If you are concerned, it is important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of child and teen depression so they can benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
Early treatment for depression can significantly improve the outcomes of depressed children and teens. It is important to note that treatment does not have to be medication. For many children and teenagers, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is effective in guiding them to recognize and change negative thinking patterns. We often do not pay attention to the damaging content of our thoughts at any age. However, the quality of our thinking patterns has an enormous impact on our emotional and mental health. CBT is often the preferred method of treatment for anxiety and depression as it is an evidence-based, effective, medication-free method of treatment. Not only this, but since CBT involves learning skills, the result is that your child will be taught skills that can help to protect them from depression and anxiety over the course of their life.
While it is estimated 2.8 percent of children under the age of 13 years and 5.6 percent of teens aged 13 to 18 years suffer from depression, depression is significantly underdiagnosed and treated. This is very unfortunate as the consequences can be serious, and depression is among the most treatable disorders. Untreated depression can have significant impacts on the child’s school performance, friendships, family relationships, and physical health. During childhood and teenage years, children go through significant and important stages of emotional and intellectual development. Therapy can allow your child to get the most out of these critical years that they only get to live once.
If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your appointment or fill out our contact form and click Send. Center for Therapeutic Services and Psychodiagnosis is located in McHenry, IL and Lake in the Hills, IL.