Childhood depression is real! Like depression in adults, depression in children is a serious illness that requires prompt and appropriate action, especially from the adults in the affected children’s lives. Fortunately, it’s a treatable illness so there’s always hope even when there seems to be none.
Looking Out for the Signs
The symptoms of childhood depression vary among the affected children, thus, contributing to the difficulty of diagnosis. Many of these symptoms are also dismissed as part of the normal psychological, emotional and social changes that accompany childhood development. Many parents even dismiss the negative behavior, such as acting out, expressing feelings of hopelessness, and increasing levels of sadness, as just a passing phase.
If you suspect that your child may have depression, you should look out for these signs and symptoms:
- Anger or irritability
- Continuous feelings of either hopelessness or sadness, usually without an apparently justifiable reason
- Social withdrawal
- Decrease or increase in sleep and appetite
- Increased sensitivity to being rejected or the perception of being rejected
- Difficulty in concentrating on tasks
- Crying or vocal outbursts
- Low energy and fatigue
- Decreased ability to function in everyday activities
- Impaired concentration and cognitive function
Some children even have strong thoughts of death and suicide, which are already serious cause for concern. Keep in mind, too, that each child will have different symptoms and manifest them in different settings. Parents, school teachers, and family members, as well as friends, will likely observe these symptoms albeit have different interpretations.
Looking Out for the Child’s Health
The diagnosis of depression is just the first step in looking out for your child’s overall well-being. As the adult (i.e., parent), you have the responsibility of ensuring that your child’s treatment plan, especially the medication and counselling aspects, is followed. You should also provide a supportive environment at home, even talk to his teachers and close friends about his condition.
Your child’s treatment plan can consist of:
- Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the first line of defense
- Medication, such as Prozac, may also be prescribed for children between 8 and 18 years old
Studies have shown that the combination of psychotherapy and medication works best in the treatment of childhood depression. But the medication program is typically a matter of trial and error since psychiatrists have to determine which medicines work best for each patient.
When your child is on medication, you have to look out for the side effects and drug interactions, too. You have to tell your child’s doctor about these matters so that appropriate medication changes can be made, if necessary.