Depression was considered to be an adult diagnosis for decades. Until recently, the most common mental disorder in the United States was assumed to only affect adults. Today, we understand that depression can and does affect children as well. Studies indicate that around 2 percent of children over the age of 6 and around 5 percent of adolescents and teens suffer from depression at some point. That knowledge is important for parents to have because it makes them aware that they should be looking for signs of depression in their children.
The signs of depression can be difficult to spot, and they can be even harder to spot in children. Often, the signs are subtle, but if you keep a sharp eye out, you’ll be able to spot them and empower yourself to help your child and get them the help they need. Here are some of the signs you’ll want to watch out for in order to recognize depression in your children.
The Signs of Depression in Children
- Boredom and disinterest. Children are naturally curious, but when they are depressed, that curiosity vanishes. Of course, not every child is curious about everything, but when your son or daughter seems to be bored while participating in activities or expresses disinterest in most activities, that is a telltale sign that they are suffering from depression.
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and crying. Everybody gets sad sometimes, and kids are no exception. Bad things happen to everybody and expressing sadness is a healthy and okay thing to do. However, if your child is sad more often than normal, or if they find themselves feeling sad over insignificant or mundane events, that is a sign of depression. Sometimes, they won’t even know why they are sad or crying, and when that happens, that is a strong indicator that they are depressed.
- Difficulty with relationships. Some children are more reserved and introverted than others. However, for the most part, children have a desire to make and strengthen relationships with other people. It is not natural for your son or daughter to isolate themselves socially, to have communication issues, or to express a strong aversion to talking about things that are important to them. If they exhibit any of these symptoms, they might be dealing with depression.
- Intense and/or frequent mood swings. One of the ways in which depression affects children is by altering their mood. When children are suffering from depression, they become emotionally unstable. This makes them vulnerable to intense and/or frequent mood swings. If your child has difficulties controlling their emotions, you might want to speak with a mental health professional to determine whether or not your child is suffering from depression.
The Dangers of Depression
Everybody seems to have a good idea of the negative effects that depression can have on a person’s life. In addition to the signs mentioned above, addiction can be dangerous for other reasons as well. For example, it can lead to addiction, and it increases the likelihood of your child participating in self-harming activities or having suicidal thoughts or actions. It also has been linked to reckless behavior, poor performance in school, poor physical hygiene, and other health concerns as well.
All of these issues can severely affect your child’s life, and if they grow up without getting the help they need, they will view those problems as a normal part of everyday life. This is, of course, saddening and unacceptable, so as parents, it is up to us to recognize the signs of depression and do whatever it takes to get our children the help they need.
How to Help Your Depressed Child
First and foremost, the best thing you can do for your child is to consult a mental health professional. They understand better than anyone the ways in which depression affects people, and they know how to help. Additionally, a few general tips include:
- Encourage them to exercise daily. Better yet, exercise daily as a family.
- Limit their screen time.
- Talk to them, and—more importantly—listen to them often.
- Be involved in their participation and performance at school. Here are a few tips to keep them motivated throughout the school year.
- Most importantly, frequently remind them of how loved and appreciated they are by using both your words and your actions. When it comes to children, a little love goes a long way, and that is definitely the case when they are suffering from depression.