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Know the warnings signs and symptoms of depression in your child

Commonly reported symptoms of depression in adults include difficulties sleeping, concentrating, fatigue and decreased energy, loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, feeling sad, and hopeless. However, these symptoms of depression often look much different in children, and because of this, it is important that parents be able to recognize warning signs of depression that are common among children.


Do identify if your child demonstrates a mood that is depressed or irritable

Adults may feel depressed (or express a loss of pleasure), whereas a child may express or demonstrate a mood that is either depressed or irritable. If can be extremely difficult to tell whether a child is going through a “phase” or is suffering from depression. It is good to identify instances in your child’s mood that seem out of place, perhaps even jot down when and what your child was feeling so that you can follow up with a mental health professional.

Do ask your child’s teacher to get involved

Parents and teachers tend to be more accurate observers of children’s behavior, whereas children themselves will give more accurate information about emotions. Multiple informants will increase the likelihood of a complete and accurate clinical evaluation.

Do keep an open mind about causation

Research has shown that depression in early life is multifactorial. Every child experiences the world differently. And because of this, certain experiences that positively or negatively impact one child, may have the exact opposite effect on another child. Monitor your child’s perception of their experiences and their world by regularly talking with your child or adolescent.

Do look for mood disorders in close relatives

Studies have showed that depression can run in families, and extend across multiple generations. Often times families can struggle with making these connections across generations due to the absence of a formal diagnosis. Clinicians can aid families in assessing their family tree to help to determine if a family history of depression may be present.

Do speak with a licensed pediatric mental health professional

Consult with a licensed professional counselor or psychologist who specializes in child and adolescent psychology. Evaluating mood disorders in children can prove challenging due to developmental constraints, such as the child’s level of communication. It is difficult to evaluate the feelings of clients who communicate poorly, and therefore mood must largely be inferred from behavior.


Do not assume your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Many symptoms commonly associated with ADHD such as, school refusal, poor concentration, increased psychomotor activity, and sleep difficulties are also symptoms associated with other disorders like adjustment disorder, bereavement, depression and anxiety.

Do not rule out a psychological assessment

Psychological testing specifically designed for diagnosing mood disorders in children are available and can aid in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. An assessment can be helpful in identifying a child’s strengths and weaknesses and produces recommendations for academic and behavioral intervention.

Do not be embarrassed

As previously stated, many factors can contribute to a diagnosis of depression. If a child is depressed, it does not mean it is the parents fault. Everyone experiences feelings associated with depression at some point in their lives, but that does not always mean a person in clinically depressed. Children experience the same emotions as adults, but depending on the child’s age, they may not have yet developed the necessary cognitive capabilities to be able to communicate these feelings.

Do not be afraid to ask questions

Parent’s and caregivers should ask questions and encourage a child to communicate their feelings. This not only helps children to better identify and make sense of their feelings and emotions, but also facilitates a stronger and healthier relationship between parent and child.

Do not ignore the warning signs

If a child struggles with depression it is likely that some form of intervention or treatment is needed, not only to support the child, but also the family.

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Symptoms of depression in children can differ from the symptoms associated with depression in adults. It is important to consult with a licensed mental health professional, like a counselor or psychologist who specializes in adolescent psychology. Don’t ignore the warning signs before it is too late. Your child deserves to be happy, and the advice above can help.

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Amanda SheldonProfessional Counselor

I view each therapeutic relationship as an opportunity to walk alongside my clients on their journey towards achieving their therapeutic goals in a safe and supportive environment. Amanda holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling Psych...

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