Mood Disorders: Depression in Children and Teens

Reviewed Jun 30, 2017

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Summary

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Children and adolescents can be depressed, just like adults. Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue. It is a medical disorder. It can affect your child’s relationships. It can affect how well they do in school. It can affect how a child functions overall. The good news is that treatment helps both children and teens.

What is depression?

Depression affects people of all ages, sexes, and races. It affects people from all income levels. Depression can happen only once or it can happen in cycles. It can also go along with a manic episode. This is a highly excited mood.

Depression isn’t caused by one single event. It’s caused by a many factors working together. And, the causes vary from person to person. It can be caused by lowered levels of chemicals in the brain that send messages to the nerves. While depression can be triggered by stress or tragic events, they do not cause it. Some depression happens without any kind of clear external causes. Studies show that depression can run in families.

Signs of depression

In some children and teens, the signs of depression are similar to the symptoms in adults. These include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of enjoyment in their favorite activities
  • Complaints about physical problems that have no medical basis
  • Fatigue, inability to concentrate, boredom
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Irritability
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempts or talk of self harm

Children may also show other kinds of symptoms. They include:

  • Being afraid to go to school
  • Having exaggerated fears about unusual things, like their parents dying or a plane crashing into their school

In teens, depression can show in many ways:

  • Sulking or refusing to take part in family or school activities.
  • Problems in school such as failing grades or fighting with peers.
  • Risky behavior like drinking, drugs, sexual acting out, or breaking the law.

Symptoms of depression may also look like alcohol or substance use disorder. Symptoms can also look like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other kinds of problems. Watch your child carefully over a period of time. This is the best way to decide if the problems are ongoing, or if your child is reacting to something temporary in his life.

Treatment options

Treatment for depression starts with an assessment by a mental health provider. In some cases, depression is diagnosed by the child’s primary care physician (PCP). Your mental health provider or PCP may also talk to you about your child’s general health. They may ask about what’s going on at home or at school. These questions help them understand what might be causing the depression. Be as honest as possible with the provider. They are not prying. They are only trying to get enough facts to make a correct diagnosis.

Treatment may include medicine. It can also include one-on-one, group or family therapy. Therapy focuses on helping your child to talk about her problems. This can help her learn skills to deal with problems. It can help her see her problems from a new point of view.

School may or may not be a problem for a depressed child. Depression does not always show up as behavior problems in school. Other disorders such as ADHD are easier to see in school. If your child has recently become depressed, the teacher may notice a drop in grades. He may contact you about his concerns.

Some children do not come to the attention of teachers at all. In these cases, their depression causes the child to become withdrawn. Other children will become involved in drugs or alcohol. Some will take part in dangerous activities because of their depression. That is why it is important to be involved in your child’s school life. Changes that might not be obvious at home may show up at school.

Tips for parents

  • If you suspect your child is depressed, get help. Don’t dismiss your concerns. Don’t think that the symptoms will go away by themselves. They probably won’t and they might get worse.
  • Don’t take the blame for your child’s depression. Even if something you did (such as get a divorce) was a trigger, it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t tell your child to snap out of it. Depression is a real disorder. A person with depression can’t just snap out of it any easier than a person who had diabetes.
  • Let your child know you are there for her. Remind her you love her. Let her know over and over again, even if she gets angry and tries to push you away. She needs to hear this because she is feeling hopeless and worthless.
  • Once your child begins to talk, let him talk about whatever he wants. Don’t make judgments or criticize. Just listen.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Children and adolescents can be depressed, just like adults. Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue. It is a medical disorder. It can affect your child’s relationships. It can affect how well they do in school. It can affect how a child functions overall. The good news is that treatment helps both children and teens.

What is depression?

Depression affects people of all ages, sexes, and races. It affects people from all income levels. Depression can happen only once or it can happen in cycles. It can also go along with a manic episode. This is a highly excited mood.

Depression isn’t caused by one single event. It’s caused by a many factors working together. And, the causes vary from person to person. It can be caused by lowered levels of chemicals in the brain that send messages to the nerves. While depression can be triggered by stress or tragic events, they do not cause it. Some depression happens without any kind of clear external causes. Studies show that depression can run in families.

Signs of depression

In some children and teens, the signs of depression are similar to the symptoms in adults. These include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of enjoyment in their favorite activities
  • Complaints about physical problems that have no medical basis
  • Fatigue, inability to concentrate, boredom
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Irritability
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempts or talk of self harm

Children may also show other kinds of symptoms. They include:

  • Being afraid to go to school
  • Having exaggerated fears about unusual things, like their parents dying or a plane crashing into their school

In teens, depression can show in many ways:

  • Sulking or refusing to take part in family or school activities.
  • Problems in school such as failing grades or fighting with peers.
  • Risky behavior like drinking, drugs, sexual acting out, or breaking the law.

Symptoms of depression may also look like alcohol or substance use disorder. Symptoms can also look like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other kinds of problems. Watch your child carefully over a period of time. This is the best way to decide if the problems are ongoing, or if your child is reacting to something temporary in his life.

Treatment options

Treatment for depression starts with an assessment by a mental health provider. In some cases, depression is diagnosed by the child’s primary care physician (PCP). Your mental health provider or PCP may also talk to you about your child’s general health. They may ask about what’s going on at home or at school. These questions help them understand what might be causing the depression. Be as honest as possible with the provider. They are not prying. They are only trying to get enough facts to make a correct diagnosis.

Treatment may include medicine. It can also include one-on-one, group or family therapy. Therapy focuses on helping your child to talk about her problems. This can help her learn skills to deal with problems. It can help her see her problems from a new point of view.

School may or may not be a problem for a depressed child. Depression does not always show up as behavior problems in school. Other disorders such as ADHD are easier to see in school. If your child has recently become depressed, the teacher may notice a drop in grades. He may contact you about his concerns.

Some children do not come to the attention of teachers at all. In these cases, their depression causes the child to become withdrawn. Other children will become involved in drugs or alcohol. Some will take part in dangerous activities because of their depression. That is why it is important to be involved in your child’s school life. Changes that might not be obvious at home may show up at school.

Tips for parents

  • If you suspect your child is depressed, get help. Don’t dismiss your concerns. Don’t think that the symptoms will go away by themselves. They probably won’t and they might get worse.
  • Don’t take the blame for your child’s depression. Even if something you did (such as get a divorce) was a trigger, it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t tell your child to snap out of it. Depression is a real disorder. A person with depression can’t just snap out of it any easier than a person who had diabetes.
  • Let your child know you are there for her. Remind her you love her. Let her know over and over again, even if she gets angry and tries to push you away. She needs to hear this because she is feeling hopeless and worthless.
  • Once your child begins to talk, let him talk about whatever he wants. Don’t make judgments or criticize. Just listen.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Children and adolescents can be depressed, just like adults. Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue. It is a medical disorder. It can affect your child’s relationships. It can affect how well they do in school. It can affect how a child functions overall. The good news is that treatment helps both children and teens.

What is depression?

Depression affects people of all ages, sexes, and races. It affects people from all income levels. Depression can happen only once or it can happen in cycles. It can also go along with a manic episode. This is a highly excited mood.

Depression isn’t caused by one single event. It’s caused by a many factors working together. And, the causes vary from person to person. It can be caused by lowered levels of chemicals in the brain that send messages to the nerves. While depression can be triggered by stress or tragic events, they do not cause it. Some depression happens without any kind of clear external causes. Studies show that depression can run in families.

Signs of depression

In some children and teens, the signs of depression are similar to the symptoms in adults. These include:

  • Sadness, crying, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of enjoyment in their favorite activities
  • Complaints about physical problems that have no medical basis
  • Fatigue, inability to concentrate, boredom
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Irritability
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempts or talk of self harm

Children may also show other kinds of symptoms. They include:

  • Being afraid to go to school
  • Having exaggerated fears about unusual things, like their parents dying or a plane crashing into their school

In teens, depression can show in many ways:

  • Sulking or refusing to take part in family or school activities.
  • Problems in school such as failing grades or fighting with peers.
  • Risky behavior like drinking, drugs, sexual acting out, or breaking the law.

Symptoms of depression may also look like alcohol or substance use disorder. Symptoms can also look like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other kinds of problems. Watch your child carefully over a period of time. This is the best way to decide if the problems are ongoing, or if your child is reacting to something temporary in his life.

Treatment options

Treatment for depression starts with an assessment by a mental health provider. In some cases, depression is diagnosed by the child’s primary care physician (PCP). Your mental health provider or PCP may also talk to you about your child’s general health. They may ask about what’s going on at home or at school. These questions help them understand what might be causing the depression. Be as honest as possible with the provider. They are not prying. They are only trying to get enough facts to make a correct diagnosis.

Treatment may include medicine. It can also include one-on-one, group or family therapy. Therapy focuses on helping your child to talk about her problems. This can help her learn skills to deal with problems. It can help her see her problems from a new point of view.

School may or may not be a problem for a depressed child. Depression does not always show up as behavior problems in school. Other disorders such as ADHD are easier to see in school. If your child has recently become depressed, the teacher may notice a drop in grades. He may contact you about his concerns.

Some children do not come to the attention of teachers at all. In these cases, their depression causes the child to become withdrawn. Other children will become involved in drugs or alcohol. Some will take part in dangerous activities because of their depression. That is why it is important to be involved in your child’s school life. Changes that might not be obvious at home may show up at school.

Tips for parents

  • If you suspect your child is depressed, get help. Don’t dismiss your concerns. Don’t think that the symptoms will go away by themselves. They probably won’t and they might get worse.
  • Don’t take the blame for your child’s depression. Even if something you did (such as get a divorce) was a trigger, it’s not your fault.
  • Don’t tell your child to snap out of it. Depression is a real disorder. A person with depression can’t just snap out of it any easier than a person who had diabetes.
  • Let your child know you are there for her. Remind her you love her. Let her know over and over again, even if she gets angry and tries to push you away. She needs to hear this because she is feeling hopeless and worthless.
  • Once your child begins to talk, let him talk about whatever he wants. Don’t make judgments or criticize. Just listen.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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