Yes, medical research has shown that children can become depressed. Some forms or types of depression in children are mild and may sometimes go undetected.
Symptoms of depression in children usually manifest as disruptive or angry behavior, extreme sensitivity, mood swings, and a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem.
Symptoms of Children Depression
The signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
- Irritability, impatience, or anger
- A sense of unworthiness, inadequacy, failure, or guilt
- Social inadequacy or social withdrawal
- Increased sensitivity to rejection
- Unexplainable and uncontrollable crying
- Extreme sadness
- Marked changes in appetite — decrease or increase in appetite
- Difficulty in focusing or concentrating
- Fatigue (tiredness) or lack of energy
- Inability to sleep or insomnia
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression can vary in duration and severity, ranging from mild to severe forms. This condition manifests itself in sadness and extreme anxiety.
The associated feelings include sadness, emotional distress, anxiety, and restlessness, which can be so strong that they sometimes interfere with performing regular tasks such as doing schoolwork or social interaction with peers.
Depression in children can sometimes be more intense and longer-lasting, which can interfere with the child’s ability to function and can additionally include:
- A sense of feeling trapped or emotional numbness
- Impaired thinking or concentration
- Lack of joy in life
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, or hyperventilation
What Causes Depression in Children?
There is no one clear cause for depression. It is more likely that depression in children is caused by a confluence of factors that cause stress on the child, leading to depression.
Upheavals or major changes in a child’s immediate surroundings can sometimes lead to depression in children.
These major changes can stem from a death in the family, divorce, financial difficulties, moving to a new house, or any other drastic changes with which the child cannot cope with.
Physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes all likely play a role in what would trigger depression.
Difficulty coping with normally easily managed things may sometimes lead to frustration and depression in children.
A major and common cause of depression in children is domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse tends to be kept as a family secret and it can happen to anyone. This results in emotional distress and affects their ability to express their feelings.
Children who witness it or are victims themselves are prone to suffer from depression.
Children who see their parents, usually the mother, suffer in an abusive relationship tend to suffer from depression and the emotional scars can remain, even in later years.
This depression can stem from domestic violence such as threats, intimidation, and isolation, economic, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.
How to Treat Depression in Children?
If a child is depressed or you suspect that a child is struggling with depression, it is important to seek help immediately.
Medical attention or counseling
Seek medical attention or counseling for the child immediately. Do not wait for hope or improvement with time. Look out for early symptoms of depression.
If the child is depressed, it’s typically because of abuse in the family, and it is crucial to remove the child from the abusive environment.
Furthermore, research has indicated that children of parents with mental difficulties are more likely to suffer from social, emotional, and educational difficulties.
Without help, the child will continue to suffer and the abuse and depression that the child suffers from could worsen.
Move Away the Child from a Violent Environment
If the depression that the child is suffering from is caused by violence in the family, it is important first to break that cycle of violence and safely remove the child from that environment and bring the child to a safe and caring place.
Depression in children, depending on the severity, can lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors. The rate of suicide among children may not be high. However, it is something that can be prevented by timely action.
Therapy and Counseling
Depression, if addressed immediately, can be treated. Children treated for depression respond well to a combination of both therapy and counseling, along with a positive family, self-care measures, and medical treatment. Early intervention can lead to a more rapid recovery.
How to Prevent Depression in Children?
Many parents and families who have to deal with depression in children tend to prefer multiple approaches in addressing and treating* the condition.
In addition to traditional medical treatment, many people look for safe and effective home remedies, such as herbal remedies, in addition to conventional depression treatment.
There are also special diets designed to help uplift the moods of children diagnosed with depression.
In addition to a proper diet, exercise can work as an antidepressant for suffering children, as exercise may help boost the mood of the depressed child.
If your child or a close relative is suffering from childhood depression, you can take some steps to aid in the recovery of the child:
- Help the child practice positive health habits.
- Make the child get as much sleep, food, nutrition, and exercise as possible. Put emphasis on both exercise and healthy dieting with lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Help the child avoid isolation from family and friends. Help the child cope with his or her feelings by constantly communicating with the child suffering from depression. Make the child reach out to friends, family, and members of his or her community. Help the child obtain several levels of support which can help in the process of recovery from depression.
- Help the child set realistic short-term and long-term goals and expectations.
Children are unknown to the challenges of the outside world. However, providing a safe environment at home is the primary duty of any caregiver or parent.
Play, fun, and laughter are the definition of childhood, however, some are denied these due to various factors such as socio-economic conditions, domestic issues, etc.
It is crucial to make the child feel loved and cared for foremost if you want him/her to forget the past and move on with life.
Studies say that primary caregivers, i.e., parents play a crucial role in accessing mental health services in the case of children.
More often, the unwillingness of the family to accept that their child is suffering from depression creates a barrier. Behavior therapy for both the child and family by a medical professional may be helpful in changing negative thoughts to positive ones.
An Occupational therapist, freelance content writer, and more importantly a stay-at-home mom, Sarah, like all other parents juggles her many roles. Her passion for writing combined with her professional expertise as an Occupational therapist (working with children with special needs) has helped her craft content specific to child health, wellness, and learning skills. At present, Sarah alternates her time between raising her two young children, and writing about what she knows best- children!