Though it’s distressing to even think about childhood depression, the fact is, it exists for real and is now being seen in more number of children than ever before. While most of us feel the ‘blues’ or ‘low’ at some point or the other, depression, including for children, is a condition characterised as a mental illness that requires quality medical attention. Depression among children is unquestionably a distressing state of being that no child deserves to be in, but if it ensues, it is important to understand its nature, analyse its causes and take immediate steps, apart from giving all the love and care the child may be trying to find.
Symptoms of Childhood Depression
Red Flags to Watch out for
Depression in children is characterised by characteristic symptoms that manifest themselves in definite ways. A little perceptiveness and observation on part of parents easily help them differentiate between passing feelings of sadness that affect most children and those which, unfortunately, happen to be deeper and more severe. Most of the symptoms of childhood depression are also identical to those seen among adults, which include the following:
- Irritability or anger
- Incessant feelings of sadness, emptiness, and tearfulness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of interest in things
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Diminished interest in favourite activities
- Persistent boredom, low energy, and tiredness
- Social isolation
- Lack of desire to be communicative
- Unprecedented sensitivity to rejection
- Conspicuous changes in appetite
- Sleeplessness or extreme sleepiness
- The tendency to be on verge of tears
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Physical ailments such as a headache, stomach ache
Causes of Childhood Depression
Parents, Watch out for these as a Precautionary Measure
According to research, there need not necessarily be a reason for depression in children as well as adults. Chemical imbalance or altered brain structure are also known to cause this disorder, a fact which explains why an individual who seems to have everything going right and is faced with no possible problem also goes through it. A case in point here would be the famous personalities who have come out and acknowledged their battle with depression in public. While a number of celebrities say that they experience depression because of their inability to handle fame and pressure due to their star status, some of them have stated there’s no apparent reason and initially, they were at a loss and failed to comprehend the reason behind it. It was only when they sought professional help that they realised it can happen to anyone even if there is no apparent cause. And it is the same that goes for children, so parents and caregivers need to be always alert to identify them and take timely steps accordingly.
Here are some of the major causes of childhood depression which can act as signposts that guide you along:
- Family history of depression and genetic factors
- Devastating incidents like death of a loved one
- Inability to cope with painful or traumatic situations
- Environmental factors like peer pressure, quarrels among parents, stressful situations etc.
- Early childhood experiences like child abuse, hitting , nagging by parents, bullying in school …
Some Facts to Know about Depression in Children
Although depression in children, just like in adults, is largely curable with counselling and medication, we need to be aware of some important facts related to it. Studies and research indicate that if a young person passes through a phase in which she or he faces a bout of depression, he or she is at a higher risk of experiencing it again in future. They are also more prone to harming themselves and even turn suicidal. Even if the problem is treated, chances of recurrence cannot be ruled out, so non-stop care and treatment are essential.
Depression in children is also associated with serious depressive ailments in the future. Such children are also vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and tendencies and even causing harm to others in some cases. They tend to be socially withdrawn, which makes them feel isolated and empty. The key here is to provide a positive, safe environment which includes nurturing a loving bond with the child and creating an atmosphere of trust where they feel comfortable and accepted and are able to share what they feel.
Is your Child Showing Signs of Depression?
Don’t Lose Heart…The solution’s at Hand.
If you feel you are detecting signs of childhood depression in your precious little one, please know that more than anything, you should focus on providing a solution to your child. Learn about the symptoms of childhood depression and observe your child so that you know how severe the problem is, how it surfaces and how often and what factors may trigger it. Assure yourself that depression is treatable especially if diagnosed and treated early.
The following steps will play a vital role in helping you tackle the issue effectively:
- Seek professional help with a mental health care expert for children right away
- Provide utmost support to whatever treatment such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and other modes of treatment is prescribed
- Keep a constant watch on an exceptionally difficult episode or phase of depression that makes the child vulnerable to taking an extreme step
- Make your child feel loved, valued and respected. Encourage her or him to open up and trust you.
- Include daily exercise and healthy, fresh and wholesome meals in daily life to aid the healing process
- Help with school assignments and other tasks that may seem daunting to the child
- Connect with families that have a child experiencing depression or a join a family network organisation
Depression in children is a devastating reality and there’s no escaping it. Though the world empathises with those whose children are diagnosed with it and extend all the support, proactive steps taken by family along with professional mental health care is the ray of hope they can hold on to. For parents, nothing would be more important than making this world a happy place for their little angels experiencing undeserved turbulence at such tender age.
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Originally published at mommysmagazine.com