Depression In Children Is Real – And They Need Your Help!
Many people consider depression an adult illness, but have you considered that children and adolescents also develop depression? It is unfortunate but true that many children go untreated when they are struggling with depression simply because adults do not recognize that the children are actually depressed. This information is important for all parents, teachers, and other adults because when you understand the causes and symptoms of depression in children, you can help identify and treat it, or at least intervene in a healthy and helpful manner.
Symptoms of Depression In Children
In children, depression usually is presented differently than it is in adults. Adults who are in depression tend to have a sad look about them; however, children or teenagers with depression can actually look angrier and irritable than sad. You may begin to notice changes in their behavior at school, at home, or among their friends or family. Signs of depression can include irritability and anger, a defiant attitude, a decline in academic performance, and physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches. In other cases, your child may even insist that they are alright and deny experiencing any problems. Too many parents and also teachers pass off bad behavior and irritability or anger as hormonal and part of normal development. However, moods that last for longer than two weeks may actually be indicative of depression.
Children Can Become Depressed
Many adults are of the opinion that children shouldn’t actually be depressed and actually believe it isn’t possible. This is mostly because it is assumed that kids don’t have anything to actually worry about and have no ‘real’ responsibilities and adult concerns like running a household or paying bills. However, children experience stress as well and even kids who are relatively stress-free can still develop depression. Children raised in healthy environments and in a good home can still become depressed. This kind of mental health issue does not discriminate.
Causes of Depression in Children
Developing depression is not a sign of weakness, and it isn’t the person’s fault either. While it is true that stressful life events like the death of loved ones or divorce may contribute to depression, there are still many other factors that are responsible for it as well. Some risk factors that have the potential to led to depression are brain chemistry, family history, stress or trauma, and environmental factors. When it comes to brain chemistry, hormones and neurotransmitters affect how the brain functions and can cause the development of depression. Family history can play a role if a child is genetically predisposed to the condition, that is if other family members have struggled with depression. Environmental factors could be chaos, stress, an unstable home environment, or even bullying at school.
Diagnosis of Depression in Children
Should you suspect for any reason that your child may be depressed, a good starting point is with a pediatrician. It is good to schedule an appointment and talk about your concerns with a physician. In order to be diagnosed as depressed, the child will have to exhibit five or more symptoms for a minimum of two weeks. A mental health evaluation may be conducted, and this could mean an evaluation when you are not present, but there is no reason for alarm. If warranted, the child will be promptly referred to a mental health professional to receive the appropriate attention and treatment necessary.
Treatment and Medication
Common treatment options are psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases a combination of these options. Some people may fear that heavy treatment is issued, coming with heavy side effects, but this is not true. Medication is not always necessary or the treatment of depression. Talk therapy is a viable option as well. If medication is used, antidepressants are common and are effective. Of course, these require careful monitoring in order to minimize the risks of severe side effects. Parents will have to assume the responsibility of monitoring their child if their child is placed on antidepressant treatment for depression. CBT therapy is another approach used that involved the identification of helpful and unhelpful thoughts and teaching the child to replace them with effective, positive thought. Behavioral therapy can go a long way in helping children deal with problematic behavior and even fears.
Do not be afraid to help a child if you suspect that he or she is presenting symptoms of depression. Do not attempt to take matters into your own hands and if you are the parent of the children, do not feel discouraged or disappointed in any way as depression does not mean you have not done your job as a parent. Depressions come sin many forms and are caused by many factors. Help children overcome depression and live a healthy life into adulthood!
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