Depression in Children and Teens

Depression is not just an adult mental health issue. Children and teens can develop depression too…it just looks slightly different.  Sometimes adults assume that children or teens can’t be depressed because they don’t have adult responsibilities. This is actually a myth about depression in general.

While most adults with depression look sad, children and teens may look more irritable or angry. Children and teens who cause trouble at school or at home could be suffering from depression. The following are common signs of childhood depression:

  • Changes in behavior (outbursts, irritability, anger, defiance, academic issues)
  • Physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Decreased interest in activities (no longer enjoys previously enjoyable activities)
  • Low energy, increased boredom
  • Isolation from peers and difficulty with relationships
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating or sleeping
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent talk or thoughts about death, dying, or suicide (in younger children, these themes may present themselves through play)
  • Hopelessness
  • Crying more often or more easily
  • Harming self (cutting, scratching, hitting)

It’s important to note that not all children or teens will have these symptoms. Some children and teens may continue to function well in their environment despite experiencing depression. Although rare in children under 12, young children do attempt suicide because of their impulsivity.

What causes depression in children and teens?

As with most mental health disorders, depression is can be linked to a biology, the environment, or both. There are higher chances of your child or teen developing depression if you have a family history of depression or other mood disorders—we call this having a “predisposition” or being predisposed to a condition. Depression is also much more common than we think. A lot of times we see depression or other mental health challenges as something rare or abnormal. We forget that situational depression can happen as well. If there have been recent changes in your child or teen’s life (divorce, moving, grief, etc.), they can trigger a depressive episode too.

So, what can parents or caregivers do?

You can’t prevent depression but you can be proactive about your child’s mental health. Younger children often lack the language to tell their parents what they’re experiencing. Teens on the other hand may have a better understanding of depression but may feel embarrassed about coming forward. They may also feel ashamed or fear that no one will believe them or understand them. It is important to remember that someone can suffer from depression even if they seem to be functioning on the outside. Learn the warning signs of depression in children and teens and take note of how long the problem has been going on as well as how often they happen. Then, you’ll have a record of concerning changes you can address with a mental health professional. Depression is treatable so seek help as soon as possible.

As always, thank you for tuning in! If you would like to speak about yourself, your child, or teen, reach out at 858-522-9415 for a free consultation today!