daughter spends more time in her room than usual, with the door
closed and the shades drawn. She sleeps a lot, and even the family
dog can't make her smile anymore. She has stopped hanging out
with her friends, and when you ask what's going on, she just mumbles.
teen behavior? Not really. There's more here than meets the eye,
something that's telling you things are not right.
possible that your child is depressed. In the United States, depression
is the most common mental health disorder, affecting 17 million
people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds each
year. As many as one in every 33 children may have depression;
in adolescents, that number may be as high as one in eight. If
you suspect that your child is depressed, you'll want to learn
more about what depression is, what causes it, and what you can
do if your child is depressed.
Depression isn't just bad moods and occasional melancholy. It's
not just feeling down or sad, either. These feelings are normal
in children, especially during adolescence. Even when major disappointments
and setbacks make people feel sad and angry, the negative feelings
usually lessen with time. But when a depressive state, or mood,
lingers for a long time - weeks, months, or even longer - and
it limits a child's ability to function normally, it can be diagnosed
types of depression, major depression and dysthymia, can affect
children. Major depression is characterized by a persistent sad
mood and the inability to feel pleasure or happiness. A child
with major depression feels depressed for most of the day, almost
the sadness is not as severe but continues for a year or longer,
the condition may be dysthymia.
disorder is another type of mood disturbance and is characterized
by episodes of low-energy depression (sadness and hopelessness)
and high-energy mania (irritability and explosive temper).
Depression usually isn't caused by one event or thing; it's the
result of one or more factors, and its causes vary from child
to child. Depression can be caused by lowered levels of neurotransmitters
(chemicals that carry signals through the nervous system) in the
brain, which limits a person's ability to feel good. Depression
can run in families, so a child who has a close relative with
depression may be more likely to experience it herself.
life events such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, a move
to a new area, and even a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend
can bring on symptoms of depression. Stress also can be a factor,
and because the adolescent years can be a time of emotional and
social turmoil, things that are difficult for anyone to handle
can be devastating to a teen.
chronic illness can lead to depression, as can the side effects
of certain medicines or infections.
Depressed children have described themselves as feeling hopeless
about everything or feeling that nothing is worth the effort.
They honestly believe that they are "no good" and that they're
helpless to do anything about it.
for an accurate diagnosis of major depression to be made, a more
detailed clinical evaluation must be done. A medical or mental
health professional (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) must
be sure that your child has had five or more of the following
symptoms for more than 2 weeks:
child who has dysthymia must experience two or more of the following
symptoms almost all the time for at least 1 year:
feeling of being down in the dumps or really sad for no reason
lack of energy, feeling unable to do the simplest task
inability to enjoy the things that used to bring pleasure
lack of desire to be with friends or family members
of irritability, anger, or anxiety
inability to concentrate
marked weight gain or loss (or failure to gain weight as expected),
and little or too much interest in eating
significant change in sleep habits, such as trouble falling
asleep or getting up
of guilt or worthlessness
and pains even though nothing is physically wrong
lack of caring about what happens in the future
thoughts about death or suicide
children and teens are more likely to use alcohol and drugs than
those who aren't depressed. Because these substances can momentarily
allow a child to forget about her depression, they seem like perfect
"fixes." But they don't fix anything; in fact, they can make the
depressed child feel even worse.
too much or being unable to sleep
of appetite or overeating