How do we identify depression in children

Children as young as 4 years old can develop a depressive illness. The incidence of depression increases with age. Children experience depression slightly differently when compared to adults. This article will help you identify depression in your child.

Depression is different from normative sadness. All sadness isn’t depression, and children can be depressed without appearing sad.

Childhood depression

What are the symptoms of depression in a child?

A depressive episode in a young child often manifests as physical heath complaints and/or agitated behaviour. Depressed children may have normal sleep and appetite. Children often refer to depressive feelings in terms of anger, or feeling “mad” rather than sad.
Negativistic behaviour, anger, truancy, impulsivity and alcohol or illicit substance use can develop secondary to a depressive episode. Feelings of restlessness, irritability, aggression, a reluctance to cooperate in family ventures, withdrawal from social activities, and isolation from peers often occur in adolescents. Depressed adolescents may become less attentive to personal appearance and show increased sensitivity to rejection by peers, and in romantic relationships.
School difficulties are likely, a sudden decline in academic performance is a definite warning sign. Some children may refuse to go to school. Academic performance is invariably affected by difficulties in concentrating, slowed thinking, a lack of motivation, fatigue, sleepiness, depressive ruminations, and preoccupations. Older children may begin to harm themselves or start talking about death and suicide.

Children with depression may sometimes be misdiagnosed as ODD, conduct disorder, learning disability or ADHD.

What causes depression in children ?

Depression in children can be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, environmental stressors, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability and biochemical disturbance.

How is childhood depression treated ?

The course and prognosis of major depression in children and adolescents depend on the severity of illness, the rapidity of interventions, and the degree of response to the interventions. Parents play an important role in the management of depression in children. Specific psychotherapeutic modalities such as cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy and parent-child interaction therapy are effective in the management of childhood depression. Some children may require medications to help them beat the depressive episode.

Take a Take the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC) self-report depression inventory online – Instant results