How to Spot the Symptoms of Childhood Depression

About 3% of children under the age of 12 suffer from childhood depression. In order to know the reason why children feel down or depressed, experts will evaluate the child's clinical and family history.
How to Spot the Symptoms of Childhood Depression

Last update: 05 December, 2019

Children who often feel down are usually diagnosed with childhood depression or mood disorder. There are many reasons for this condition – one that occurs in the early years of life or that may also show itself in adolescence. There are varying degrees of symptoms of childhood depression, each with different ways to approach the problem in order to help the child regain a better frame of mind.

Experts will arrive at a diagnosis through an analysis of the symptoms that each child shows, and they’ll suggest an effective treatment. Children who often feel down don’t necessarily have a chronic illness and often don’t need medication.

According to how severe the symptoms are, and what type of depression it is, the doctor will decide whether it’s just something that will soon pass or whether it may be something long term. They’ll need to evaluate the child correctly in order to distinguish between one thing and another.

Symptoms of childhood depression

These symptoms all indicate that a child may be depressed:

  • At a somatic level: One of the warning signs in low-spirited children is that they seem to have little energy. They’re tired most of the time and have little concentration in their daily activities and games. They also often complain of stomach and/or headaches.
  • At an emotional level: The major indicator of possible depression is a depressed emotional condition. Parents should be concerned if one of their children always seems sad, or has sudden mood swings.
  • Irritability combined with frequent crying, along with apathy towards the things they always used to like, is a sign that something is wrong.
  • At a motor level: These “motor” symptoms include hyper- or hypo-activity. If a child has difficulty sleeping or has nightmares, and fits from restlessness or inactivity, then this is a sign of low-spirited children with a tendency towards depression.
How to Spot the Symptoms of Childhood Depression
  • At a cognitive level: They show apathy and despondency, including negative thoughts (including thoughts about death), lack of concentration, and memory problems. In addition to this, they often talk about themselves in terms of inferiority, ugliness, or being bad. Comments like “I’m stupid”, “I’m ugly” and “I’m bad” are very common.

Causes of mood disorders in childhood

Although we’ve seen that children with symptoms of childhood depression can be influenced by a number of factors, all of these center around a sense of vulnerability. Children with mood disorders are expressing a feeling of abandonment; they don’t feel that those around them understand them, care for them, or love them.

When children don’t feel loved during their childhood years, then this will affect them in adulthood too. Sometimes, the explanation for this feeling can be attributed to chemical imbalances in their body, such as glandular problems. However, these imbalances aren’t enough in themselves to cause depression in children.

For all these reasons, we must look for the real causes of the stress, depression, and mood disorders:

  • The loss of one of the parents, or their parents’ divorce: this is a frequent cause of depression in children. In these cases, it’s easier to detect the cause and take steps to reverse this process.
  • Suffering some form of abuse, either physical, mental, or sexual: Childhood abuse is, sadly, much more frequent than we’d like to think. It’s essential that a child speaks out if they’re suffering from any type of abuse.
  • We must remember that bullying is a type of abuse and its repercussions on a child’s state of mind can be devastating.
  • Over-demanding parents or teachers: Each child has his or her own timeline for learning. When we demand more from them than they can cope with, then the frustration can lead to depression.
How to Spot the Symptoms of Childhood Depression

Treatment for children with symptoms of depression

It’s important to point out that, in order to diagnose depression or any type of psychological disorder in a child, we must have observed the same behavior for at least two weeks.

The diagnosis will often require both routine and neurological clinical analysis. Only when you’ve tried all other avenues should you resort to medication to cure the problem.

Some sports such as martial arts, yoga, or swimming are ideal for treating depressive problems. In mild cases, art, music, and theater can help children to break free and express their innermost fears.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.