Children and adolescents can be depressed, just like adults. Depression is more than just feeling sad or blue. It is a medical disorder that can affect your child’s relationships, school performance and overall functioning. Depression can also be deadly. It can result in suicide and suicide is one of the leading causes of death in teenagers and young people. The good news is that both children and teens respond very well to treatment.
Depression affects people of all ages, sexes, races and economic backgrounds. Depression can happen in a single episode (only once) it can be recurrent (happen in cycles) or go along with a manic episode (high or euphoric mood).
Depression isn’t caused by one single event. It’s caused by a combination of factors and the causes vary from person to person. Depression can be caused by lowered levels of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain that send messages to the nerves. While depression can be triggered by stressful or tragic events, they do not cause depression. Some studies show that depression runs in families. Stress or loss can trigger a bout of depression, but some depression happens without any kind of obvious external causes.
In some children and teens, the signs of depression are similar to the symptoms in adults. These include:
Children may also show other kinds of symptoms. They include:
In teens, depression can show in many ways:
Symptoms of depression may also look like alcohol or drug abuse, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other kinds of problems. Watching the child carefully over a long period of time is the best way to make a diagnosis.
Treatment for depression starts with an evaluation by a mental health professional. Your mental health professional may also talk to you about your child’s general health and about situations at home or school that might be contributing to the depression. Be as honest as possible with the professional. They are not prying, they are only trying to get enough information to make an accurate diagnosis. Treatment may include medication, one-to one therapy, group therapy or family therapy. Therapy that focuses on helping your child to talk about her problems can help her learn skills to deal with problems and can help her see her problems in a new perspective.
School may or may not be a problem for a child with depression. Depression does not always show up as behavior problems in school, like other disorders such as ADHD. If your child has recently become depressed, your teacher may notice a drop in school performance and grades, and may contact you about her concerns. Some children do not come to the attention of teachers at all, because their depression causes them to become withdrawn. Other children will become involved in drugs, alcohol or dangerous behavior as a result of their depression. That is why it is important to be involved in your child’s school life. Changes that might not be obvious at home may show up at school.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Bipolar disorder is a disorder that can cause extreme mood swings. The mood swings can range from mania (excited, high or frantic) to depression (sad, hopeless) with periods or normal moods as well. It affects people of all ages, sexes, races and economic backgrounds, and is usually first diagnosed in adulthood. Occasionally, it is diagnosed in teenagers, and in rare instances, has been diagnosed in children as young as five.
In adults, these moods usually last weeks or months. In children or teens, the mood swings are much more frequent. In fact, in many children, the mood swings cycle many times within a day. A child with bipolar disorder may have other disorders such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse or oppositional disorders.
Everyone has mood swings, but a person with bipolar disorder has severe mood swings. The moods vary from mania to depression. The person’s feelings may be so intense that they lose contact with the real world. The symptoms of mania include:
In a child with bi-polar disorder, the depressive symptoms are similar to the symptoms of someone with depression. The length and intensity of episodes vary between people. People also have periods of normal moods in between the high and low cycles.
TIPS FOR PARENTS