Depression in children is a very real problem, compounded by the common misconception that children don’t get depressed. In reality, 2.5 percent of children suffer from major depressive incidents, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Children display slightly different symptoms of depression than adults do, so parents should be aware of their children’s behavior and pick up on any unusual changes.
Causes of Depression in Children
Depression is a complex disease and has a number of potential causes. Scientists have identified a strong genetic link with mental disorders, so if anyone in your family suffers from depression, then your child is also at a certain level of risk. Another factor is biological â€” some children with depression have a low level of neurotransmitters in their brain, which hinders their ability to feel happy.
Finally, changes and stress can bring about depression or make it worse. Death, divorce, moving, breakups, chronic illnesses and other stressful events can easily cause or worsen childhood depression symptoms.
Symptoms of Children With Depression
Warning signs that may indicate children with depression include:
- Attempts to run away from home
- Excessive concern with failure
- Frequent complaints of vague physical ailments (headaches, stomachaches, fatigue)
- Frequent irritability, crying
- Lack of interest in play
- Lack of social interaction
- Reckless behavior
- Sudden drop in school performance.
If your child has been displaying a combination of these childhood depression symptoms for at least two weeks and you’ve noticed an increase in unhappy and lethargic behavior, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Children with depression need treatment in order to improve, as depression is a real illness.
Don’t delay seeking treatment for childhood depression symptoms. Children with depression do attempt suicide and are often successful â€” the Centers for Disease Control that suicide reports that suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14.
Depression in Childhood: Teenagers
The moody, irritable, anxiety-ridden teenager is a common stereotype, and certainly many teens fall into this category. Adolescence is a turbulent time. Teenagers have to deal with sudden body changes, peer groups and an emerging sense of self. In all the confusion, it’s easy to miss the signs of childhood depression symptoms in teenagers.
Unfortunately, many instances of depression in children and teenagers lead to suicide attempts. Talk of suicide must always be taken seriously: 70 percent of teenagers who talk about committing suicide eventually make a serious attempt to end their lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the third-leading cause of death of people ages 15 to 24 in 2005.
A cautionary note on suicidal teens who are receiving treatment for depression: People struggling with depression are most likely to commit suicide as the treatment begins to work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned in 2004 that suicidal thinking may occur within the first few weeks of treatment with antidepressants. Treatment of depression in children takes time, and the teen’s energy level may rise while he is still suicidal. Special care and attention should be given during this time.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2007). Suicide: Facts at a glance. Retrieved April 8, 2010, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/Suicide/SuicideDataSheet.pdf.
Hecht, B.K. and F. (2004). Antidepressants and suicide, FDA warns. Retrieved April 8, 2010, from the Medicine Net website: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=31649.
New, M. (2008). Understanding depression. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the Kids Health website: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/understanding_depression.html#.
Teen Suicide Statistics Staff. (n.d.). Teen suicide overview. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the Teen Suicide Statistics website: http://www.teensuicidestatistics.com/.
U.S. Surgeon General Staff. (n.d.). Mental health: A report of the surgeon general. Retrieved April 8, 2010, from the U.S. Surgeon General website: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec5.html.