Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect children and adolescents as well as adults. According to statistics, in the United States approximately 1% of preschoolers, 2% of school age children, and 5-8% of adolescents are affected by this mood disorder.
With mental health disorders that affect children and adolescents, it can be hard for parents to
distinguish passing behaviors that may be within the normal range for a particular age group, from certain moods or conduct that might be indicative of an underlying psychiatric disorder. Further evaluation is in order when excessive and persistent symptoms interfere with the child or adolescent’s ability to function and interact with others.
Children and adolescents who are depressed may exhibit a spectrum of symptoms, including some of the following behaviors:
● Lack interest in previously enjoyable activities
● Frequent sadness, excessive crying
● Pessimism, hopelessness
● Extreme sensitivity, low self-esteem
● Lack of energy
● Social isolation
● Complaints of physical aches and pains that cannot be attributed to other medical conditions
● Poor concentration
● Problems at school
● Change in sleeping and/or eating patterns
● Conflict with authority
● Substance abuse
● Thoughts of suicide
Exactly which symptoms of depression are expressed can vary with age. In young children behaviors such as aggression, anger and excessive crying may be most evident. It is also important to note that depression in children and teenagers may manifest itself differently from the disorder in adults, with a behavior like irritability being more prominent.
Children, who have a family history of depression, have experienced psychosocial adversity, as well as those who have other anxiety, attention, learning, conduct, or eating disorders are at a higher risk for developing depression. Furthermore, an occurrence of depression in adolescence may predispose an individual to subsequent episodes of depression in adult life as well as to other psychosocial difficulties. Nevertheless, depression is a treatable illness. With early diagnosis and the appropriate professional care the symptoms can be managed, recovery is more likely, and there is an increased chance that any subsequent episodes will be less severe.