Adults are not the only one who suffer from depression, but children suffer too. It is important that we as adults, parents and teachers know what signs and symptoms to look for. Children are not as articulate as adults so they may not be able to find the words to explain what is going on with them and how they are feeling. This puts the responsibility on adults in a child’s life to recognize signs of trouble and help them cope.
Children are faced with many difficulties that they are ill-equipped to handle such as loss, divorce, poverty, abuse, etc. The powerlessness that children feel in many of these situations can last well into their adulthood. An important factor to consider in childhood depression is that it may be a biologically based illness. It is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry, to where a child’s perception about themselves and the world is distorted.
When you are looking for warning signs of depression in children they fall within four basic categories: cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral issues. Not every child will experience every symptoms, but usually a combination of a few signs are present though.
Typical Emotional Signs found in Children
Sadness – feelings of despondency and hopelessness
Loss of interest and pleasure in things formerly enjoyed
Anxiety – anxious, tense or panicked
Turmoil – feelings of worry and irritability
Typical Cognitive Signs of Depression in Children
Difficulty organizing thoughts concentrating or remembering
Negative views of people and circumstances
Worthlessness and guilt over their perceived faults and failures
Helplessness and hopelessness
Feelings of isolation
Typical Physical Signs of Depression in Children
Changes in appetite or weight increasing or decreasing
Problems sleeping: difficulty falling asleep or staying awake
Sluggishness – do things in at a overall slower pace
Typical Behavioral signs of Depression in Children
Avoidance and withdrawal from activities and responsibilities
Clinging and demanding becoming dependent on some relationships
Activities in excess
Restlessness, fidgeting, acting out, reckless behavior
Self-Harm, or take excessive risks
If signs of depression are seen in a child it is best to promptly seek out professional help. Work along with a professional to secure the right treatment for the child.
Sources: Mental Health America formally National Mental Health Association