How to Recognize Signs of Depression in Your Child

How to Recognize Signs of Depression in Your Child

It's easy for parents to tell when their children are happy, but it's not always obvious when they're sad or scared. And while it can appear to be more common among teenagers, it's still possible for young children to experience depression, too.

It may result from a genetic or psychological cause--like bipolar disorder--but kids can also develop signs of depression from a particular trauma, like the loss of a loved one or a stressful environment. In this way, they're no different from teens and adults who experience depression.

Recognizing Depression

Of course, there's a difference between noticing when your kids are sad and when they're legitimately depressed. Fortunately, you can learn to spot the symptoms of childhood depression early on.

These signs will usually manifest as:

  • Continual sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Vocal outbursts or crying
  • Sensitivity to rejection
  • Social withdrawal
  • Severe changes in appetite or sleep habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lower performance in school and extracurricular activities
  • Fatigue or constant physical pains like headaches or nausea

It's not common for all these symptoms to show up in a child afflicted with depression. Every child is different, but it's important to know what to look for when your child's behavior changes dramatically. If the symptoms appear to persist, you might want to take them in for an evaluation by a doctor or a child-friendly psychiatrist.

Managing Depression

If you want to help your child get through their depression, you have to approach them the right way and appreciate what they're going through. Consider these steps toward helping your child manage their depression.

1. If your child is being taken in for a medical or psychiatric evaluation, the specialist may recommend putting them on antidepressants. If used in moderation and in combination with therapy, this can be very effective at treating depression.

2. Keep a close eye on your child's behavior. Although it's unlikely in most cases, you should be prepared for extreme reactions or symptoms if your child's condition gets worse. This can include a higher risk of thoughts about death and suicide attempts.

3. As difficult as it may be for both of you, the best solution is to talk with your child about what they're feeling and how you can help them with that. It's important for parents to not deny or underestimate the depth of their child's depression, just as it's important for kids to realize that their parents still love them and are willing to help them through a particularly hard time. You can also supplement this dialogue with a regular visit to the psychiatrist. Some kids will find it easier to open up and talk about their depression with someone outside their circle of family and friends.

4. Above all else, be patient. Depression is a condition that takes a long time to develop and just as long to get through. Some children might find that their symptoms never truly go away, even as they mature into adolescence and adulthood. Still, as a parent, you have a responsibility to recognize their pain and help them manage it in the hopes of giving them a happier life overall.

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