Children and Childhood Depression
National Mental Health Association
1021 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2971 – Phone (703) 684-7722 – Fax (703) 664-5968 – TTY (800) 433-5959 – www.nmha.org
GaryTauscher, Chair of the Board | Michael M. Faenza, President and CEO
CHILDREN AND DEPRESSION
Depression can occur at any age and has various symptoms and causes. Like adults, children also have temporary periods of sadness or unhappiness, from which they recover quickly. However, it is estimated that approximately 5% of children suffer from severe depression, which can affect their daily activities at school and at home. Children, who experience a loss, high levels of stress, learning disorders, or conduct disorders are at higher risk for depression. Depression in children maybe classified as major depression and less severe forms such as dysthymia, which is characterized by a moderately depressed mood lasting for over a year; and adjustment disorder, which is caused by a stressful situation and lasts less than six months.
The behavior of children who are depressed is different from that of depressed adults. Often, these children may not seem sad or unhappy. They may begin to spend more time alone, rather than playing with friends, and they may talk of wanting to be dead. Other warning signs of depression in children include:
Persistent feeling of sadness.
Inability to enjoy previously favorite activities.
Increased activity or irritability.
Frequent complaints of headaches and/or stomach pains that do not improve with treatment
Suicidal thoughts and actions.
Alcohol and/or drug abuse.
Attendance problems or decreased performance in school.
Difficulty dealing with everyday activities and responsibilities.
Persistent boredom, low energy, and/or poor concentration.
Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns.
Exhibiting troublesome behavior at school or home.
There does not appear to be any single cause for depression in children.. Rather there are biological, psychological, and environmental causes, which may occur individually or in combination to cause childhood depression. The biological causes relate to hereditary, biochemical hormonal, neurological factors, and more recently, seasonal changes associated with decreased amounts of light. Psychological and environmental factors include the loss of loved ones, conflicts in child-parent relationships, and low self-esteem. Also important are the ways children regard and manage everyday activities and their ability to structure their world.
Because of the variations in types and causes of childhood depression, treatment must logically vary to suit the individual child. Some symptoms may simply suggest a change in habits or behavior, while more severe signs of depression require the assistance of a professional. Treatment for severe depression in children may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, antidepressant and anti anxiety medications, or a combination of these.
Next Page | Home page’