Trigger warning: The content may not be for a sensitive audience.
Depression isn’t common only for adults. Children and teens can easily be affected by it, too.
The pandemic wasn’t easy for anyone. However, children and teenagers have been hit particularly hard. When it comes to teens, they missed some significant events like their prom and homecoming, and they’ve been in social isolation because of the ongoing lockdowns.
The same applies to the children. They were mostly used to spending time in the parks, playing with friends, and going to their grandma’s place. Then the lockdown happened and their childhood changed. Some of them missed the first days of school, birthdays, going to the kindergarten…
It’s been very tough for everyone, and the number of people diagnosed with depression jumped abnormally.
If you think your kid might struggle with depression, it’s crucial to get help early. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to mess with their life and it can possibly turn into a long-term problem.
Can children really be depressed?
Yes. Even though the answer may surprise you, the truth is that children can also struggle with depression. However, it easily gets confused with emotional switches they go through as they’re growing up. The reason is that the symptoms vary from the ones adults show.
If a child seems sad from time to time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have depression. But, if you notice that the sadness becomes constant, or it even interferes with regular social activities, your child’s interests, schoolwork, or family life, it might be a sign that they have a depressive illness.
React fast because depression is a serious illness, whether it comes to children, teens, or adults. However, always stay aware of the fact that it’s treatable.
What causes depression in children?
We usually can’t point to one thing and say that it’s a cause of a child’s depression. It’s more common that several different factors have piled up over months or years. Eventually, they led to a depressed mood.
The same goes for all groups of people, adults, teens, and children. Depression can be caused by any combination of things and events (from family history to environmental causes).
Unfortunately, depression is not a mood that will just pass, nor a condition that can disappear without proper treatment.
Signs of depression in children
Not every depressed child will show the same symptoms so it’s not that easy to spot them. Also, the main concern is that depression in children is often undiagnosed since we confuse it with the emotional changes and development of a child.
We assume that certain behaviors are simply a part of the process of growing up and so we tend to ignore them. “It’ll pass, don’t worry. He/she is just a child” is the advice most parents get when they express their concerns for their kid.
There is also something called “masked depression”. It happens when a child’s depressed mood becomes hidden by misbehavior or outbursts of anger.
It’s well knowns that the primary symptoms of depression circle around sadness, hopelessness, and frequent mood changes, and many children show those symptoms. However, there are more signs that we need to look out for when it comes to depression in children and teens.
Let’s start with the symptoms concerning kids:
1) Feeling sad and hopeless
2) Anger issues
3) Not being interested in things they used to enjoy
4) Vocal outbursts
5) Frequent crying
6) Exhaustion and low energy
7) Stomachaches and headaches that don’t seem to go away
8) Social disengagement
9) Troubles during social events
10) Issues with concentrating
11) Change of appetite
12) Huge changes in weight
13) Changes in sleep routine
14) More susceptible to rejection
15) Problems with confidence
16) Feeling empty or unable to feel emotions
17) Being indecisive
18) Easily irritated
19) Noticeably slower thoughts, speech, or movement
20) Talking about death
What causes teen depression?
The same as with children, teens mostly get depression because a variety of issues get combined over a longer period. However, there are other possibilities such as:
Brain chemistry: If chemicals that carry signals to your brain and body show any signs of abnormal functions, they cause a change of nervous system. That can lead to depression.
Hormones: Hormonal changes can acts as triggers of depression in teens.
Inherited traits: If any of the blood relatives suffered from depression then your child is at risk of inheriting it.
Early childhood trauma: Traumatic events that happened in childhood (such as abuse of any sort, moving towns, or the loss of a family member) increase the risk of depression.
Patterns of negative thinking: Being surrounded by people who are pessimistic and don’t support you increase the risk of depression. That way they will learn to feel helpless, instead of learning how to find solutions for their problems.
Symptoms of teen depression
Some symptoms are the same for children and teens with depression. However, when it comes to signs of teen depression we may place them in two different categories. The first one is emotional changes and the second one is behavioral changes.
Emotional changes may be:
1) Feeling sad and frequently crying
2) Getting easily angry, even if it’s a small problem
3) Confidence issues
4) Trouble thinking, concentrating, issues with decision-making and memorizing
5) Easily annoyed
6) Hopelessness and emptiness
7) Feeling guilty or not good enough
8) Loss of interest in things they’ve enjoyed before
9) Loss of interest in family, friends, school, sports
10) Difficulty moving on from past failures
12) In need of constant reassurance
13) Sensitivity to rejection or failure
14) Talking about taking their life away
15) Not making any plans for the future
Behavioral changes might be:
1) Lack of energy
2) Having trouble with falling asleep
3) Sleeping too much
4) Use of alcohol or other addictive substances
5) Isolation from the society
6) Issues at school
7) Missing classes
8) Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
9) Changes in food consumption (either not eating enough or eating too much)
10) Not paying enough attention to personal hygiene
11) Frequent headaches
12) Problematic behavior
13) Giving away their possessions
14) Injuring themselves
15) Attempting to take their life away
Unfortunately, depression in children and teens is frequent. And there isn’t a single proven way to prevent it. However, these strategies might be helpful:
Take steps to control stress
Reach out for help (start with family and friends)
Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem
Maintain ongoing treatment