Depression in Children & Teenagers
What is Depression?
Depression can be characterized by feelings of hopelessness, lack of self-worth, and extreme sadness. It is normal for people to feel sad once in awhile but when the sadness is so extreme, it can get in the way of their day to day activities.
What are the causes of depression?
The causes of depression are not completely understood nowadays. There are several factors that can contribute to depression and they can include the loss of a loved one, the loss of a good friendship, illness, family problems like parents who are splitting up, stress, and problems like bullying in school. There are children who are more resilient than others. Some children are able to cope better than others while there are children who become completely depressed.
Your genes and your family tendencies have an impact on how susceptible you are to becoming depressed. Levels of some brain chemicals become unusually abnormal when someone is depressed.
Who are affected by depression?
A lot of psychiatrists believed that children are incapable of experiencing depression. This was during the eighties. They said that children do not have the emotional maturity to feel hopeless. The truth is that it is possible for children to feel down sometimes.
According to statistics, there are approximately two percent of children under twelve that can experience significant depression. By the time they reach their teenage years, the number rises to five percent. In a classroom of twenty people, that means there is likely to be one depressed child on average.
Half of the adults who develop depression are able to pinpoint symptoms of depressions even before they were twenty years old.
What are some of the symptoms of depression?
There are a lot of symptoms of depression and with the number of symptoms, you may have a hard time pinpointing whether your child is depressed or not. Some of the symptoms of depression in children are
* if your child appears unhappy most of the time
* stomach aches
* vague physical complaints that don't have a specific or identifiable cause
* spending a lot of time in bed without much sleep and waking up too early
* having academic problems
* big changes in their weight
* loss of interest in one's favourite hobbies
* having low self-esteem
* having feelings of worthlessness
* thinking about committing suicide
It is not easy to identify depression in children because they aren't able to express their feelings effectively yet. Children usually react to their moods in a physical way. Some children become sad and tearful while other children become troublemakers in school.
If you worry about your child then you should have a consultation with your general practitioner. You should have a consultation especially if the symptoms have been there for a month already. You should try to talk to the friends of your child as well so that you have several perspectives regarding their feelings.
You should take your child seriously if ever they talk to you about committing suicide. You should not dismiss these talks as a lack of attention or simply being empty. You should consider getting expert advice and involve other family members. This will improve communication with the child and alleviate the situation.
Depression is not completely understood nowadays but you should know that there are children who are at more risk of depression than others. Children who have a physical illness, who have gone through abuse, have divorced parents, or who live in a home with family problems are at a greater risk of depression than other children. Sometimes even the simplest worries can trigger depression like taking tests.
How is depression diagnosed and treated?
If you think that your child is depressed then you should set up an appointment with the doctor. A diagnosis of depression is based on the medical history and the symptoms of the child. The treatment of depression involves going through therapy like counselling and psychotherapy. Your child may also take antidepressants. Just discussing the problems to the doctor and people you trust is a step forward in treating depression.
Children will not find it easy to understand their depression at first. It is important to make them understand the underlying problems in their life and how they should be addressed. In turn, they will have a more positive outlook in life. Psychotherapy is usually needed in order to get the child to realize several things.
Children who are depressed can not simply snap out of their depression and become composed in an instant. Depression is a long term problem which can last on average about eight months as it is treated. Most of the depressed children return to normal after one year or two but more than half of these children will become depressed again in a few more years.
Children can respond quickly to treatment with antidepressants even if they aren't needed in certain situations. Children can be treated at home or as an outpatient in a hospital. It is uncommon for a child to stay in the hospital for depression treatment. If you think that your child has suicidal tendencies then you must talk to your doctor right away. Talk to your child as well and try to improve your communication with them.