What Does A Child Have To Be Depressed About?
By Carol B. Simmons, MS, LPC
We think of childhood as a carefree time of life without responsibility or concerns. However, research suggests 3 percent of children and 8 percent of adolescents suffer from depression.
Depression is more common in boys under age 10, but by the time girls are adolescents they have a greater incidence of depression. Just because your child is sad about something does not mean that they are depressed. On the other hand, if the sadness is persistent and begins to affect activities of daily living, such as interaction with others, drop in grades, change in appetite, or increased irritability, this may indicate depression.
Due to the accessibility of 24-hour news about world events, weather, local crime and easy access to social media, children are exposed to the same information that adults are exposed to. The problem is that children do not have the emotional maturity to determine which events might or might not affect them. Therefore, they could develop a feeling of hopelessness.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP FOR YOUR CHILD
Clinical depression can be caused by factors, such as physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability and biochemical disturbance. It is not a passing mood and will probably need treatment by a professional.
If you suspect that your child might be suffering from depression, or if they have had symptoms that last more than two weeks, it is recommended that you first visit a primary care physician who can eliminate any physical causes for the mood problem.
GETTING A MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATION
If there are no physical reasons, consultation with a mental health professional might be recommended. The mental health evaluation will include interviews with the guardian and child and any additional psychological testing that is necessary.
Most often the clinician will want to spend some time with the child alone to get information they might not want the parents to hear. Information from teachers, friends and family can also be useful. There are no specific tests – medical or psychological – that can give a firm diagnosis, but all of this information is helpful in making the determination.
THERE IS HOPE
Treat this condition as you would any other disorder – with appropriate care. Be careful not to make this an issue of choice for the child. Remember that depression is treatable with cognitive therapy and perhaps the support of medication and does not predict a lifetime of unhappiness.
Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not as medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding counseling or mental health, please contact Psychology & Counseling to make an appointment.
At Psychology & Counseling, we offer counseling and mental health assessments. Following diagnosis, we work with you to determine the best course of treatment and counseling for you. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (601) 261-1650.