Have You Heard Of Childhood Depression?

Source – The State Hornet

Childhood depression tends to be swept under the rug and goes unnoticed by the parents. They might think the children are in their element of experiencing many emotions at once and leave it untreated for long. Childhood depression goes beyond feeling sad, upset and it causes them unending distress.


Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 17 Dec 2021.

Have You Heard Of Childhood Depression?

Childhood depression tends to be swept under the rug and goes unnoticed by the parents. They might think the children are in their element of experiencing many emotions at once and leave it untreated for long. Childhood depression goes beyond feeling sad, upset and it causes them unending distress.

Can Children Really Have Depression?

Yes. Childhood depression is distinct from the “blues" and other common emotions that children experience as they grow up. Just because a child seems unhappy doesn’t imply they’re suffering from depression. However, if the melancholy persists or interferes with typical social activities, hobbies, schooling, or family life, it may indicate that they are suffering from a depressive disorder. Remember that, although depression is a severe disease, it is also one that can be treated.

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Depressed?

Depression in children manifests itself in a variety of ways. Symptoms are frequently misinterpreted as regular emotional and psychological changes, leaving the disease undetected and untreated. Early medical research focused on “masked" melancholy, in which a child’s sad mood was disguised by acting out or becoming furious. While this does occur, especially in younger children, many children exhibit melancholy or a low mood in the same way as depressive adults do. Sadness, a sense of despair, and mood swings are the most common signs of depression.

The following are signs and symptoms of depression in children:

  • Anger or irritability
  • Sadness and despair are constant companions.
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Being more receptive to criticism
  • Appetite changes, either increased or reduced
  • Sleep disturbances (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)
  • Crying or vocal outbursts
  • Concentration issues
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Physical problems that do not respond to therapy (such as stomachaches and headaches)
  • Trouble at home or with friends, at school, during extracurricular activities, and other hobbies or interests.
  • Feelings of inadequacy or guilt
  • Thinking or concentration problems
  • Suicide or death thoughts

All of these symptoms aren’t present in every child. In reality, most people will exhibit various symptoms at various times and in multiple situations. Although some children may function reasonably well in controlled settings, the majority of children who are depressed will have a visible shift in social activities, a lack of interest in school, poor academic achievement, or a change in appearance. Children, particularly those above the age of 12, may begin to use drugs or alcohol.

Although suicide attempts by children under the age of 12 are uncommon, they occur, and they may do it impulsively when disturbed or angry. When it comes to suicide attempts, girls are more likely to make them, while males are more likely to succeed. Children with a familial history of violence, alcohol misuse, or physical or sexual abuse and those with depressive symptoms are at a higher risk of suicide.

Which Children Get Depressed?

In the United States, up to 3% of children and 8% of teenagers suffer from depression. Boys under the age of ten are considerably more likely to get the disease. Girls, on the other hand, have a higher rate of depression by the age of 16.

Adolescents are more likely than younger children to suffer from bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder in youngsters, on the other hand, maybe more severe than it is in teenagers. It may also occur in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or conduct disorder, or be concealed by them (CD).

What Causes Depression in Children?

Depression in children, like depression in adults, may be caused by various factors, including physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic susceptibility, and biochemical disruption. Depression is neither a fleeting emotion nor a disease that will go away if not treated properly.

Can Depression in Children Be Prevented?

Depression is more likely among children who have a family history of depression. Children with depressed parents are more likely to have their first episode of depression than children whose parents are not depressed. Children and adolescents from unstable or contentious homes and children and teens who misuse substances such as alcohol and drugs are more likely to develop depression.

How Is Depression Diagnosed in Children?

If your child’s depression symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks, arrange an appointment with their doctor to rule out any medical causes for the signs and to ensure that your child receives appropriate therapy. A visit with a child-focused mental health care provider is also suggested. Keep in mind that the doctor may want a private conversation with your child.

Interviews with you (the parent or primary caregiver) and your kid, as well as any necessary psychological testing, should be part of a mental health assessment. Teachers, acquaintances, and classmates can help you demonstrate that these symptoms are constant throughout your child’s activities and represent a significant shift from prior conduct.

There are no particular medical or psychological tests that can demonstrate depression in children. Still, tools like questionnaires (for both the kid and the parents) coupled with personal data may be beneficial in diagnosing depression in children. Other issues contributing to depression, such as ADHD, conduct disorder, and OCD, maybe discovered through treatment sessions and questionnaires.

Some doctors begin utilising mental health screenings during a child’s 11th birthday well visit and continue to do so every year after that.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Psychotherapy (counselling) and medication are two treatment choices for children with depression compared to adults. If counselling fails to bring about substantial change, your child’s doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication. The best research to date indicates that the most effective treatment for depression is a mix of psychotherapy and medication.

However, studies indicate that fluoxetine (Prozac), an antidepressant, helps treat depression in adolescents and teenagers. The FDA has approved the medication for the treatment of depression in children aged 8 to 18.

The majority of medicines used to treat depression in children come with a black box warning that they may increase suicidal thoughts. It’s critical to start and monitor these medicines under a qualified expert’s supervision and discuss the risks and advantages.

Treating Children Who Have Bipolar Disorder

Psychotherapy and a combination of medications, typically an antidepressant and a mood stabiliser, treat children with bipolar disorder.

Antidepressants should be used with care in children with bipolar illness since they may cause manic or hyperactive episodes. Medication management for children must be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counselling and regular primary care visits.

Antidepressant drugs, according to the FDA, may raise the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in children and adolescents suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. Consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Also, if your kid is prescribed these medicines, you must regularly contact the doctor and therapist.

Long-Term Outlook

According to studies, children develop depression for the first time at younger ages than in the past. Depression may resurface later in life, just as it does in adults. Depression often occurs in conjunction with other medical conditions. And, since depression has been proven in studies to be a precursor to more severe mental disease later in life, early diagnosis, treatment, and careful monitoring are critical.

It’s often simpler to deny that your kid is depressed as a parent. Because of the societal stigmas connected with mental illness, you may be hesitant to seek assistance. It is critical for you, as a parent, to understand depression and the necessity of therapy for your kid to continue to develop physically and emotionally in a healthy manner. It’s also crucial to educate yourself on the long-term impacts of depression on your kid throughout adolescence and adulthood.

Depression in Children: Warning Signs

Parents should be particularly vigilant for signs that may indicate that their child is at risk for suicide.

The following are warning indicators of suicide conduct in children:

  • There are many depressed symptoms (changes in eating, sleeping, activities)
  • Isolation from friends and family is a kind of social isolation.
  • Suicide, despair, and helplessness are all mentioned.
  • Unwanted actions are being acted out more often (sexual or behavioural)
  • Increased willingness to take risks
  • Accidents occur often.
  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Themes that are gloomy and negative are emphasised.
  • Discuss death and dying.
  • An increase in weeping or a decrease in emotional expressiveness is both possible outcomes.
  • Giving away personal belongings

If you think your child or adolescent is depressed, pay attention to their concerns. Even if you don’t believe the issue is severe, keep in mind that it may seem so to them. Even if your kid seems to want to retreat, it’s critical to keep the communication channels open. If at all possible, refrain from instructing your kid what to do. Instead, pay attention, and you may learn more about the issues that are creating the difficulties.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unable to communicate with your kid, or if you’re still worried, get professional assistance.

Sources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-children 
  2. National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression in Children and Adolescents."

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