Depression is a condition in which children and teens feel sad, hopeless, and uninterested in daily life. The depression may keep them from doing everyday activities.
Depression in children may be a one-time problem or may continue. Many children have trouble for weeks or months. Without treatment, depression may come back and get worse.
Children who have had depression are at greater risk for depression in their late teens and adult years.
The exact cause of depression is not known.
Depression is more serious when it begins before the age of 10 or 11 and is not the result of a specific event. In childhood, both boys and girls are equally at risk. During the teen years, girls are twice as likely as boys to develop depression.
Depression is somewhat different in children and teens than in adults. Adults usually describe feelings of sadness and hopelessness along with fatigue. Depressed children are usually more irritable and moody. They may be defiant. Their mood may shift from sadness to irritability or sudden anger. Some children and teens don't know that they are depressed. Instead of talking about how bad they feel, they may act out. You may see this as misbehavior or disobedience.
A child with depression may:
Teenagers have to deal with puberty, peers, and developing a sense of self. In all the confusion, it's easy to miss the signs of teenage depression. Teens with depression may also have symptoms such as often being angry, having problems in school, breaking the rules, and withdrawing from friends and family.
Your child's healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about the child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines the child is taking. He or she will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms.
Many symptoms of depression are also symptoms of other disorders. Sometimes it is hard to tell depression from other problems such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A mental health therapist who specializes in working with children and teens is best qualified to diagnose depression.
Both medicines and talk therapy are useful to treat depression in children and teens. If anyone is hurting your child physically or sexually, or if your child is being threatened, harassed, or bullied, the counselor can take action to help keep your child safe.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps children learn about depression, along with teaching skills for managing their physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and problem behaviors.
Family therapy is often very helpful. Family therapy treats the family as a whole rather than focusing on just the child. Children often feel very supported when parents and siblings attend therapy with them and work as a group.
Several types of medicines can help treat depression. Your child’s healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine for your child. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine. If anxiety symptoms continue, then medicines just for anxiety may be added. If your child also has ADHD, medicines for ADHD may be prescribed.
While rare, antidepressants may make a child or teen manic (feeling highly energized and being very active), more depressed, or even suicidal. It is very important to watch for new or worsening symptoms, especially when the child first starts taking the medicine. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of these medicines. In most cases there are more benefits than risks.
Stay in touch with teachers, babysitters, and other people who care for your child to share information about symptoms your child may be having.
Ask children or teens if they are feeling suicidal or have done anything to hurt themselves. Get emergency care if your child or teen has ideas of suicide or harming others or harming himself.
For more information, contact: