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You might view depression as something only adults struggle with. In reality, depression does not discriminate in terms of age, meaning children and teenagers can also be affected. In severe cases, a child’s depression can lead to suicide, a rising issue across the nation. Thus, it is critical to recognize the signs of depression and take action immediately if you notice any in your child.
Know that this is a common issue and that if it is something that your child is struggling with, you are not alone. It does not mean that you have done something wrong as a parent. Ultimately, there are many reasons depression in children occurs, and there are many resources and treatment methods available that can help.
The Different Causes of Depression
Many factors can play into the onset of depression in children. Some of them may be completely out of their or your control. Some common causes include:
- Brain chemistry: Everyone’s brain is wired differently. Some people experience imbalances within their neurotransmitters. Thus, serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate mood, may not be processed as they should, resulting in depression.
- Family history: Depression can be passed down from generation to generation. If a child has a close family member that struggles with mental health, their likelihood of developing a mental health disorder is heightened.
- Environmental factors: If a child is living in a troubled or unstable home environment, their chances of experiencing depression can increase.
- Poor physical health: If a child is overweight, does not exercise regularly, or is given a poor diet, their mental health can suffer as a result, causing depression.
- Stress: Stressful and traumatic events in a child’s life—such as verbal or physical abuse, bullying, losing a loved one, or family problems—can all trigger depression.
Identifying the Signs of Depression
Depression affects each person differently. There are some warning signs to be on the lookout for in your child, including:
- Being quiet and withdrawn
- Not wanting to bathe regularly or keep up with personal hygiene
- Low self-esteem or a sense of worthlessness
- Expressing negative thoughts about oneself
- Feelings of unrelenting guilt
- Losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed
- Not wanting to spend time with friends or family
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Frequent stomach pain or headaches
- Unusual aggression
- Decreased performance in school
- Turning to alcohol or drug use
- A lack of energy
If your child exhibits any of these signs, they may need treatment to help with their mental health.
How to Help Your Child
If you suspect that your child is experiencing depression, the first thing that you should do is have a conversation about it. See if they are willing to open up about how they are feeling. Ask if certain events in their life are causing them stress or sadness. Remember to listen more than you speak and never try to minimize how they are feeling. These emotions are not something that they can control or simply snap out of.
Reassure your child that depression is nothing to be ashamed of and that you are there to support them no matter what. You can also ask your child if there is anything that you can do to help them feel better. Remind them that if they are struggling with something, they do not have to do so alone.
Monitor your child’s moods and if their condition does not seem to get any better, reach out to their pediatrician to see if professional treatment is needed. In some cases, prescription medication is necessary to help alleviate symptoms of depression. If this is your child’s situation, ensure that they take their medication as directed by their doctor.
Your child may find more success by speaking with a therapist in other situations. Regular counseling can help them to better sort through their emotions and learn to cope with stress in positive ways. If your child is undergoing treatment for depression, remember to check in with them regarding the progress of their condition. If they are not experiencing relief, their treatment plan may need to be adjusted.
Remember to be aware of your own behavior as well. While it is normal for parents to experience stress in their day-to-day lives, avoid allowing this stress to rub off on your child and affect their mental health. Additionally, try to avoid talking about stressful topics in front of them, such as marital issues, financial strain, or troubling news events, as this could trigger additional anxiety or worsen existing depression.
Depression does not discriminate by age, affecting children and teenagers alike. Suicide is a growing national concern, so it is more critical now than ever for parents to know how to identify the signs of depression within their children. While depression affects everyone differently, some common signs include: withdrawing from family and friends, trouble sleeping or eating, unusual aggression, decreased performance at school, a lack of energy, or poor self-esteem. If you believe that your child is struggling with depression, speak with them one-on-one and encourage them to open up about how they are feeling. If their condition continues or worsens, reach out to their primary doctor about treatment options. Therapy or prescription medication may be necessary. Untreated depression can lead to substance use. If this is something that you or someone close to you is dealing with, our team at The Kimberly Center can help. Call (855) 452-3683 today to learn more.