It is important to recognize that depression can effect our children, especially those with learning disorders or with family histories of mental health disorders. Even among children who do not have these issues, the stress of school, life, and even too much time on screens can cause children to become depressed.
It's important to recognize that depression is not just sadness. When our children are sad, it is usually because of a situation in which they've experienced a loss (a pet, a friend, death in the family, moving, parents' divorce). Sadness in these situations are specific to those losses, last a reasonable period of time, and do not usually lead to other symptoms. Depression is usually more pervasive (sad in general), for a longer than expected period of time with no relief or improvement,
Depressive symptoms in chidren are sometimes manifested differently in children and teens than they are in adults. Here are some things to look for at different ages:
Depression in the Very Young
- Regressing developmentally. For example, he or she may start talking baby talk again
- Low energy
- Loss of appetite, losing weight
- Separation anxiety
- Doesn't like to play; refuses to play with friends
- Sleep disruption; not sleeping at night, napping off schedule
Depression in Children
- Poor performance and indifference at school or extracurriculars; little or no effort put into activities, even those once enjoyed
- Pervasive sadness
- Compaints of feeling lonely even among friends
- Negative attitude or pessimism; complaints of being "bored"
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
Depression in Teens
- Negative thinking and focusing on the negative (eg, a bad test grade means he or she is a failure; cancelled plans mean everyone hates him or her)
- Becomes self-critical; talking about being stupid, ugly, worthless
- Isolates and stops communicating with family and even friends
- Increased irritability and anger
- Starting to exhibit risky behavior.
- Changes in self-care; may become obsessive with looking "perfect" or hygeine may take a hit
- Diet changes - either binging and compulsively eating or skipping meals and undereating.
Even in young children, any talk of self-harm or wanting to die should be taken seriously and you should seek professional help right away.