Is Depression in Children Possible?

Jun 03, 2019

As per WHO recent statistics, more than 300 million people are living with depression. Though the more saddening part is - the figures include children of age group 13-15 years. Besides, it is also reported that depression in children is one of the leading causes of teen suicide. Let's learn more about this mental illness but before that here are some quick facts on depression.

Quick Facts on Depression

  • 15% of the people committed suicide due to depression.
  • Females of ages 14–25 yrs are twice most likely to suffer from depression than men.
  • As per the National Institute of Health (NIH), more than 6% of children suffer from depression and 4.9% of them have major depression.
  • Self-damage (cutting or burning) is one of the most common ways in which individuals show their depression.
  • Approximately more than half of the people suffering from depression do not seek treatment.
  • In some cases, even positive happenings such as graduating, a new job or getting married can lead to depression.
  • Overweight children are found to be more depressed than their normal mates. Besides, the condition gets worse with time.
  • Depression affects the overall health of an individual. It can increase the rate of contracting heart diseases.
  • Factors like neglect, violence, poverty or abuse may make people who are already susceptible to depression more vulnerable to the illness.
  • Sometimes, depressed people may not explicitly show depression.
  • Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world.
  • Genetic factors can also be responsible for 40-50% of depression.
  • Depression can also lead to a hallucination of certain events.

Have You Noticed Any Behavioral Changes Lately?

If your child used to play often with friends and now spends most of the time alone, you need to pay attention to. There are moments when kids are dealing with certain stress or anxiety, but they do not share. Such frequent episodes might be directing them towards depression. Things and activities that were once fun for them now do not bring any excitement. As a parent, you might confuse their behavioural changes with hormones. However, that is not the case, because a depressed child may not necessarily look sad. Other than this, the most common signs of depression one may experience include:
  • frequent tearfulness
  • loss of happiness in almost all activities
  • low on energy or feelings of fatigue
  • trouble in concentrating
  • difficulty in memorizing things
  • change in sleeping pattern. For instance, either sleeping too much or too little.
  • restlessness during the night. The child may wake up in the night or early morning and feel tired the next day.
  • an increase or decrease in appetite
  • a noticeable change in weight
  • feelings of unimportance and self-blame
  • exaggerated feelings of guiltiness
  • extreme thinking process like believing no one like them or that they are suffering from a terminal illness
  • worries or hopelessness about the future
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • being grumpy or irritable all the time
  • no participation in social situations
  • weighing the negatives more than the positives
  • increased sensitivity to rejection

Understanding Depression in Children

Depression is a mental illness distinguishable by persistent sad and gloomy mood which may last for months or even years. It can affect people at any age through the lifespan. As prevalent as it is in adults, it is increasing at an alarming rate in children too. However, the actions of depressed children may differ from the actions of depressed adults. This mental disorder interferes with a child or adolescent's ability to function. The relieving part about depression in children is that it is a treatable illness. In fact, kids respond well to childhood depression treatment. However, children under anxiety, who experience loss, or who have attention, learning, conduct or stress disorders are more prone to depression. Though there are several emotional or psychological factors responsible for depression, it also tends to run in families because of hereditary factors.

How Does It Affect Your Child?

Often, depression is not easily identifiable in children. Therefore, parents do not seek help or consult a doctor. As a result, this leads to increased problems later in life. If you are noticing signs of depression in your kid, it's vital to talk to a doctor or psychologist. Some of the common effects of depression in children include:
  • Academic Failure & Disinterest
One of the most common signs of depression is poor concentration and lost interest. As a result, if a child is suffering from depression, they will not be able to perform in class or exams. On the other hand, the problem is likely to get worse and more difficult to recover from.
  • Self-Harming Thoughts
The most serious effect of depression is suicide. When a kid is suffering from depression, they might feel hopeless and worthless. When these feelings take an extreme turn, they may lead to thoughts of suicide.
  • Social Isolation
Children with depression may begin to distance themselves from friends or family. They may appear unsociable to others or annoy them. Sadly, this can lead to the loss of relationships, difficulty forming and keeping new relationships. It can potentially push them for getting involved in negative or abusive future relationships.
  • Susceptibility to Other Diseases
Depression increases the susceptibility to a number of diseases and other conditions, for example, heart failure, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. It can also affect the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infection.
  • Substance Abuse
For adults, consuming alcohol, smoking or drugs may be a way of treating-self to feel better or normal. However, children also get influenced by these things. As a result, to feel better or to avoid depression, they may choose substance to deal with it.

What Are the Factors That Contribute to Depression in Children?

There is still no definite evidence found ascertaining the cause of depression. However, certain factors can trigger depression in children. For instance:
  • Biological factors - if depression runs in the family, a child is most likely to suffer from it.
  • Psychological factors - negative body image, low self-esteem, being excessively self-critical, and feeling vulnerable when dealing with negative events are some psychological factors that are responsible for depression in children.
  • Environmental factors - poverty and financial crisis, parental conflicts, exposure to violence, and death of a loved one are also a major contributor to depression.

Childhood Depression Treatment

Early diagnosis can help in treating this mental illness more effectively. Other than this, if you consult a doctor, they might suggest comprehensive treatment that includes both individual and family therapy. The most common therapies doctors suggest are:
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - A CBT therapy is streamlined to recognize the way an individual think and act affects the way they feel. It is one of the most effective treatments for depression. CBT identifies behaviour and thought patterns that make a child depressed, or stops them from getting better.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) - A IPT therapy is streamlined to focus on problems related to personal relationships. It also focuses on the skills needed to deal with relationship problems. This therapy helps in recognizing patterns in the relationships that make a child more susceptible to depression. Furthermore, it helps in dealing with problems and improving relationships.
Besides therapies, treatment may also include the use of prescribed antidepressant medication.

How Can You Help Your Child Combating Depression?

The basis for any good treatment includes a proper sleep cycle, healthy diet, exercise, and positive environment. Apart from the traditional childhood depression treatment, here are some ways through which even parents can help. For instance:
  • Focus on listening, not lecturing. Most of the times, parents scold their children for their disinterest in studying or any other activities. Avoid doing this.
  • Limit screen time. Instead, encourage them to take part in fun and physical activities with friends or family. This will help them in building positive connections.
  • One-on-one time is important. When kids are growing up, parents forget to realize that their kids need someone to talk to about their concerns and problems. Therefore, it is vital that parents spend some alone-time with children.
  • Praise them for good behaviour. Also, point out their strengths to build the parent-child bond.
  • Encourage them to share their feelings even if they are thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Help them look at troubles more positively.
  • If problems cause them stress, try and break down problems into smaller steps. Dealing with problems in smaller steps will help them feel confident.
  • Scribble a list of people who they can call when feelings get worse.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. When they describe an event or a situation that bothers them, do not judge. Instead, begin with 'I understand.'
  • Try talking to them on and off. Be flexible, but persistent.
Depression is a scary but treatable brain illness. If your kid is suffering from it, it is always better to keep a supportive approach towards them. Never let them feel self-pity or that it's their fault. Be patient and maintain a close relationship with them so that they know who to count on when things go downhill.

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