Depression In Children It is fairly well known that depression is on the rise in developed countries. But what has not been so widely discussed in the media, is the fact that the disorder is also becoming increasingly common in children. It is estimated that up to three percent of children in America are depressed, and this figure is rising every year.
How To Spot Depression In Children
Firstly, it is important to emphasize that it can be normal for children to go through periods when they seem a little sad. Life events such as bereavement or school worries can both cause a child to become depressed. With proper support, the child will often be able to overcome their low mood, and it is unnecessary to seek medical advice.
However, if this depression persists for several weeks and is disrupting the child’s everyday activities, it could be a sign of a depressive illness. These are some of the symptoms to look out for:
* Irritability or angry outbursts
* Crying, with little or no obvious cause
* Persistent sadness
* Withdrawal from social situations
* Changes in normal sleep patterns
* Changes in appetite
* Poor concentration at school
* Frequent headaches or stomachaches (with no apparent cause)
* Suicidal thoughts
A child with depression may not display all of these symptoms, and there may be inconsistencies in which ones they are experiencing. For example, they may go through a period of sleeping poorly, then start refusing meals just as their sleep improves. But sadness, social withdrawal and a drop in school performance are all very common signs of childhood depression.
In older children, particularly those over the age of 12, there is an increased risk of alcohol or drug abuse. It can be advisable to be extra vigilant for the signs of substance abuse if you suspect your teenager is depressed.
What Triggers Depression In Children?
There are some obvious triggers for childhood depression, such as sexual or physical abuse. A difficult home environment, such as a parent with an alcohol addiction or a domestic abuse situation, can also cause a child to become depressed. Prolonged bullying is another common reason for children developing mood disorders.
Children are much more likely to develop depression if a parent or close family member has a history of mental health problems. It is not clear if this is a result of nature or nurture, for instance a depressed mother may have problems bonding with their child. In all likelihood, both genetics and environment is a contributor in this scenario.
Under the age of ten, depression is significantly more common in boys. By the mid-teens, however, the situation is reversed and girls are more likely to be affected by mood disorders. They are also more likely to attempt suicide. But it is believed that many of these attempts are cries for help, whereas a boy attempting suicide will often succeed.
It can be very difficult for a parent to deal with a depressed child. Getting advice from the family doctor is the first step in helping the child recover.