For parents to know whether or not their child is depressed, they must first understand the symptoms to look for. Many parents have told me that they do not believe that their child is depressed and will comment, “what do they have to be depressed about, they don’t have any stress in their life.” Wrong! Children and adults alike often do not realize the signs and symptoms of depression, but both know that something is wrong by how the child is functioning. Children that are depressed often have changes in their physical health, they often display behavioral problems, they have difficulty concentrating or focusing, and their are of course the emotional problems that accompany depression. The emotional signs such as loss of pleasure, sadness, anxiety, and anger or irritability are the easiest for parents to recognize. The problem often comes in for parents as to what is “normal” childhood development and what is not. All children, especially teenagers are “moody” at one time or another and this is to be expected. The signs/symptoms of depression can be organized into four main areas:
1.) Behavioral Symptoms: These include their withdrawal from activities that they usually enjoy, difficulty controlling their behaviors such as restlessness or even self-harm. They seem to want to isolate themselves to solitary activities such as watching television, staying in their room reading for hours, or playing video games. In addition, depressed children spend increased amounts of time on activities that do not require alot of brain power such as video games or television. Lastly, depressed kids often become very irritable, demanding, or clingy and their behavior is often out of their ordinary character.
2.) Physical Symptoms or Complaints: Children that are depressed also seem to have a variety of physical complaints. They often have little to no appetite and just do not seem to want to eat anything. They complain of having little energy and want to sit around the house do nothing and avoid being around their friends. Children that suffer with depression also seem to be agitated or restless and do not sleep well at night. A good indicator is if your child is falling asleep at school and they seem to be very sluggish.
3.) Cognitive Symptoms: More simply stated, this is a change in their thought patterns. Signs to look for are if your child has very negative and self-defeating thoughts. These children make self-deprecating statements and never seem to find anything good or positive to say about themselves. Depressed children seem to be guilt ridden and they go over and over faults with themselves and others. Nothing anyone seems to say about them or those around them seems to cheer them up or brighten their day.
4.) Emotional Signs/Symptoms: These signs are often the easiest for parents to recognize in their child. The emotional signs of depression are when a child is often irritable and seems to be mad at everyone all the time. Some children may be sad and cry alot and others seems to lose interest in everything and isolate themselves in their room.
While no child will display all of the signs/symptoms of depression listed, these are some clues to look for as to whether or not your child may be suffering from depression. If your child is depressed, then professional treatment is highly recommended. Many parents try psychological treatment prior to placing their children on medications, however this is up to the discretion of the child’s parents.