How to spot characteristics of depression in adolescent or children
You can see that a period of depressed mood makes up a normal part of your child’s life. You even expect such periods at times of stress or change, especially following such serious losses as the death of a loved one or the loss of a good friend. So how can you tell whether your child needs treatment for clinical depression?
Three characteristics distinguish normal depressed moods from clinical depression in childhood: how much (degree), how deep (pervasiveness), and how long (duration). Clinical depression isn’t a passing sad mood, but involves a marked disturbance of mood that persists for most of the day, nearly every day, and lasts for at least two weeks. Depression in children is becoming more and more common amongst children and teens.
Currently, 1 out of 8 teens has depression, and that number seems to be rising from year to year. Often children and teens do not get the mental health services that they need, not because their parents are not paying attention, but because parents often have difficulty identifying depression in kids and teens. Children and adolescents are notoriously resistant to describing their feelings of sadness often associated with depression. Instead, kids and teens experience depression through a different set of symptoms commonly seen in adults.
A psycho-therapist must diagnose depression by observing and interviewing the child and by talking to the parents or other people familiar with the child’s symptoms, mood, and behavior. Becoming aware of the signs of depression can alert parents to seek the professional therapist help the child may need.
The following are symptoms that parents should look for in their children: frequent headaches, frequent stomachaches, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, inattention, lack of energy, and social isolation. Children who present with several of these symptoms may be suffering from depression and may need to be evaluated by a mental health professional (psychologist/therapist) in order to obtain relief from their symptoms, and avoid further psychological complications resulting from untreated depression.
In addition to being aware of the signs of depression, it’s also important for parents to understand the underlying causes and contributing factors. Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or loss of a friend, can trigger depression in children and adolescents. Recognizing and addressing these triggers is a crucial part of the support process. For more information on coping with loss and its impact on mental health, you might find how to survive the loss of a love helpful.
For parents seeking to better support and communicate with their children during difficult times, the article what to say to someone who is hurting emotionally offer practical advice and strategies. These resources can be particularly useful in situations where children are resistant to expressing their feelings openly.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: February 28, 2024