Is It Childhood Depression?

Reviewed Apr 6, 2017

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Summary

  • Children can have depression. Adults can learn how to find out and what to do.
  • There are medical conditions that look like depression.

Depression is a pretty big and complex idea for a child to get. As a worried parent or guardian, it can be hard to find out if your child has it.

Have a talk with your child

Depending on your child’s age, she may talk about being sad or down in the dumps if you try to have a talk. Keep in mind she may be feeling hopeless, unhappy, or upset, just as an adult can. But the child may not know how to talk about her feelings. Often, she may show the negative feelings through a bad temper, worry, isolation, grouchiness, or other actions. The signs may or may not seem like depression, but can be.
 
A child’s loss of interest in activities or no longer wanting to be with friends and family can be warning signs. Other upsetting behaviors can also be signs of depression. This can include angry outbursts, crankiness, blaming others, feeling treated unfairly, or overreacting to minor issues.

Other behaviors you can look for include:

  • Problems going to sleep, staying asleep throughout the night, and/or waking up too early
  • Nervous movements such as the inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking
  • Slowed speech or not talking at all
  • Blocked attention or memory
  • A bad self-image, feeling not good enough to be loved, or not valued by others
  • Feeling guilty for past incidents, or inappropriately or excessively self-blaming
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Brooding and being touchy
  • Being overly focused on an upsetting thought
  • Worry or marked fearfulness
  • Complaints of stomachaches, headaches, and other vague aches and pains
  • Panic attacks, especially during separation from a loved one or parental figure
  • School or academic problems such as truancy or failing grades

Some adults may have a hard time believing that a child may want to take his own life, so they may never ask the child about it. On the other hand, adults may fear that bringing up the topic of suicide might somehow plant the idea in the child's mind, but this rarely happens.

If you suspect the child wishes to harm herself, it is important to ask. Even if a health worker may do that best, as a responsible adult you need to know about the potential danger and take the right steps.

It is very important to talk with a health worker because there are other health problems that seem like depression. For example, a child with multiple sclerosis or hypothyroidism may show symptoms of depression. A doctor or psychiatrist can help with this.

Other factors may play a role in a child's mood or actions. If you think a child you know may have depression, think about the following:

  • If the child seems more touchy than depressed and has been for at least a year, he may have a milder form known as dysthymic disorder.
  • Children with depression may also have other psychiatric conditions. For example, a child can have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression together. It is important to know the difference between them. Both involve being easily upset and not being able to pay very good attention to things they should.

It is not unusual for a child to feel unhappy every so often. But a child with a diagnosis of depression has very bad and painful symptoms for most of the day, almost daily for at least two weeks.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Children can have depression. Adults can learn how to find out and what to do.
  • There are medical conditions that look like depression.

Depression is a pretty big and complex idea for a child to get. As a worried parent or guardian, it can be hard to find out if your child has it.

Have a talk with your child

Depending on your child’s age, she may talk about being sad or down in the dumps if you try to have a talk. Keep in mind she may be feeling hopeless, unhappy, or upset, just as an adult can. But the child may not know how to talk about her feelings. Often, she may show the negative feelings through a bad temper, worry, isolation, grouchiness, or other actions. The signs may or may not seem like depression, but can be.
 
A child’s loss of interest in activities or no longer wanting to be with friends and family can be warning signs. Other upsetting behaviors can also be signs of depression. This can include angry outbursts, crankiness, blaming others, feeling treated unfairly, or overreacting to minor issues.

Other behaviors you can look for include:

  • Problems going to sleep, staying asleep throughout the night, and/or waking up too early
  • Nervous movements such as the inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking
  • Slowed speech or not talking at all
  • Blocked attention or memory
  • A bad self-image, feeling not good enough to be loved, or not valued by others
  • Feeling guilty for past incidents, or inappropriately or excessively self-blaming
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Brooding and being touchy
  • Being overly focused on an upsetting thought
  • Worry or marked fearfulness
  • Complaints of stomachaches, headaches, and other vague aches and pains
  • Panic attacks, especially during separation from a loved one or parental figure
  • School or academic problems such as truancy or failing grades

Some adults may have a hard time believing that a child may want to take his own life, so they may never ask the child about it. On the other hand, adults may fear that bringing up the topic of suicide might somehow plant the idea in the child's mind, but this rarely happens.

If you suspect the child wishes to harm herself, it is important to ask. Even if a health worker may do that best, as a responsible adult you need to know about the potential danger and take the right steps.

It is very important to talk with a health worker because there are other health problems that seem like depression. For example, a child with multiple sclerosis or hypothyroidism may show symptoms of depression. A doctor or psychiatrist can help with this.

Other factors may play a role in a child's mood or actions. If you think a child you know may have depression, think about the following:

  • If the child seems more touchy than depressed and has been for at least a year, he may have a milder form known as dysthymic disorder.
  • Children with depression may also have other psychiatric conditions. For example, a child can have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression together. It is important to know the difference between them. Both involve being easily upset and not being able to pay very good attention to things they should.

It is not unusual for a child to feel unhappy every so often. But a child with a diagnosis of depression has very bad and painful symptoms for most of the day, almost daily for at least two weeks.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Children can have depression. Adults can learn how to find out and what to do.
  • There are medical conditions that look like depression.

Depression is a pretty big and complex idea for a child to get. As a worried parent or guardian, it can be hard to find out if your child has it.

Have a talk with your child

Depending on your child’s age, she may talk about being sad or down in the dumps if you try to have a talk. Keep in mind she may be feeling hopeless, unhappy, or upset, just as an adult can. But the child may not know how to talk about her feelings. Often, she may show the negative feelings through a bad temper, worry, isolation, grouchiness, or other actions. The signs may or may not seem like depression, but can be.
 
A child’s loss of interest in activities or no longer wanting to be with friends and family can be warning signs. Other upsetting behaviors can also be signs of depression. This can include angry outbursts, crankiness, blaming others, feeling treated unfairly, or overreacting to minor issues.

Other behaviors you can look for include:

  • Problems going to sleep, staying asleep throughout the night, and/or waking up too early
  • Nervous movements such as the inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking
  • Slowed speech or not talking at all
  • Blocked attention or memory
  • A bad self-image, feeling not good enough to be loved, or not valued by others
  • Feeling guilty for past incidents, or inappropriately or excessively self-blaming
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Brooding and being touchy
  • Being overly focused on an upsetting thought
  • Worry or marked fearfulness
  • Complaints of stomachaches, headaches, and other vague aches and pains
  • Panic attacks, especially during separation from a loved one or parental figure
  • School or academic problems such as truancy or failing grades

Some adults may have a hard time believing that a child may want to take his own life, so they may never ask the child about it. On the other hand, adults may fear that bringing up the topic of suicide might somehow plant the idea in the child's mind, but this rarely happens.

If you suspect the child wishes to harm herself, it is important to ask. Even if a health worker may do that best, as a responsible adult you need to know about the potential danger and take the right steps.

It is very important to talk with a health worker because there are other health problems that seem like depression. For example, a child with multiple sclerosis or hypothyroidism may show symptoms of depression. A doctor or psychiatrist can help with this.

Other factors may play a role in a child's mood or actions. If you think a child you know may have depression, think about the following:

  • If the child seems more touchy than depressed and has been for at least a year, he may have a milder form known as dysthymic disorder.
  • Children with depression may also have other psychiatric conditions. For example, a child can have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression together. It is important to know the difference between them. Both involve being easily upset and not being able to pay very good attention to things they should.

It is not unusual for a child to feel unhappy every so often. But a child with a diagnosis of depression has very bad and painful symptoms for most of the day, almost daily for at least two weeks.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

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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