Children are not immune to depression. Just like for adults, treatment can be critical. Finding help for a depressed child may forestall years of anguish, and may even save that child’s life. Yet the ongoing controversy over the safety of antidepressant drugs has left many wondering what really helps or harms.
Few, least of all parents, think childhood is a state of constant bliss. Children’s moods are like tropical seas: Tranquil waters can suddenly whip into a howling storm, returning just as quickly to sunshine and fair breezes. Depression, however, should not be confused with normal moodiness. It’s as real and serious for children – even very young children – as it is for adults.
Warning signs of child depression
Children’s behaviour is generally unpredictable. Now they are having fun playing and jumping all over the place, now they don’t want to be bothered, right? But they also give signs that they are not feeling well mentally and emotionally. Check out some of the signs below.
The child with depression has difficulty sleeping. They cannot fall asleep, become irritated, or wake up several times during the night. Their rest is disturbed, making it impossible for them to recharge their energies properly. The scenario can also be the opposite: the child sleeps for long periods, feeling sleepy at times that he was active before.
Change in eating habits
This sign can also be observed in both forms: overeating or hardly eating at all. If the child stops eating the snack or refuses to finish the lunch dish often, the parents need to keep an eye on the possible reasons.
Difficulty in separating from parents
When a child starts going to school or day care, it is normal to have a strangeness in the first few weeks. Young children, especially, do not like to be away from their parents. This behaviour is normal to some extent. If the anxiety of separation grows and becomes daily, it is a warning sign of the child’s emotional weakness.
The child complains of pain in parts of the body or of injuries frequently. Even small scratches are reasons to complain. Even after the medication or treatment of the injury, the child complains again within a short period. It is also possible to notice complaints from some situations such as classes, class reunions, or activities. They refuse to face them and may cry or become irritated when forced to do a certain task.
The child with depression gets irritated easily and can respond to the parents, make scandals just to counteract and express themselves screaming. They may even become irritated at the way their toys are organised or when performing daily tasks such as changing clothes and brushing their teeth.
Exploring and playing are the children’s favourite activities. The quiet ones, although they don’t run or jump like the others, are also curious and are attentive to the news around them. In other words, they are always doing something: reading, watching TV, playing on the computer, playing in the backyard or with toys.
The alert lies in the child’s inactivity. When the child loses the will to play or complains of tiredness frequently, the parents need to be alert. It’s OK for your child to be quieter than others. This is a question of personality. However, disinterest is not normal.
Poor school performance
The grades drop, teachers complain about fights or lack of participation and the child does not feel like getting ready to go to school. Lack of concentration in class can be a sign of depression and not just laziness or disobedience to attract attention.
Symptoms vary according to age
We cannot see the symptoms of childhood depression as completely accurate. This is because each age group has a different cognitive ability, so the behaviours are different.
Children up to two years old have different symptoms than older children and vice versa. In early childhood, it is possible to observe signs such as weight loss, excessive crying, problems of physical development, such as short stature and delayed speech are common. In the 2 to 6 year old age group, facts such as frequent tiredness, excessive tantrums and nightly enuresis can indicate a possible disorder.
Finally, older children, up to 12 years of age, already start to verbalize and feel more. In addition to presenting the previous symptoms, they may feel inferior to other colleagues, if they find themselves dumb, incapable, especially at school, or not feeling loved.