Depression in Children: Know the Signs and Symptoms
Kids experience a host of emotions, as they learn and grow. Most parents learn to weather tears, tantrums, and the silent pouts like pros — by the time first grade rolls around.
What if you sense something else is wrong? Something that isn’t your kid’s normal way. Maybe you’re reluctant to name it. Or hope it’s a phase. You just don’t want anything to be wrong.
But, if you suspect that your child is depressed, you need to know. Depression doesn’t go away on its own. You need to know for certain what’s happening, and your kid needs your support.
Do what you can to recognize the signs. Some you may recognize right away. Some may not apply. And some you might have never known were red flags at all. That’s good. You’ll be well informed, and ready to support your child, in the best way possible.
Here’s what you need to know:
Childhood Depression Warning Signs
- “I just want to be left alone.” Has your child come to prefer time alone? Is he or she much more comfortable playing video games, or online, than with people? Often depressed children will “hide out” in dark, quiet, out-of-the-way places like closets or beneath their bed.
- “I don’t feel good.” How many times have you been called by your child’s school nurse? Mystery illnesses are common in depressed children. They reflect emotional turmoil, and the tense physical state, he or she is trying to manage. Depression-related poor health can lead to poor attendance or performance at school.
- “I can’t sleep/ I can’t eat that.” Has your child’s appetite or bedtime routine become disorganized or upset lately? Disrupted sleep and picky eating may signal depression, and could interfere with your child’s basic needs. Poor rest and dietary habits can quickly compromise your child’s immunity and ability to cope well emotionally.
- “You’re not the boss of me.” Is your child becoming increasingly willful, and defiant at home, or at school? If you’ve noticed an abrupt shift in behavior, take a closer look. Troublemaking and rebellion are often overlooked symptoms of depression. Your child may be wrestling with internalized emotional pain.
- “Everything is boring and dumb.” Are you constantly hearing that your child has nothing to do or that old pleasures are “stupid”? If your child seems more deflated, than motivated to do anything, depression could be the problem. Once fun and exciting activities may now bring very little joy or satisfaction.
- “I’m so sorry. I’m so stupid.” Does your child apologize repeatedly, or take failure particularly hard? Hopelessness and helplessness may be voiced as negative self-talk like, “I am the worst” or “I always mess up.” Kids may express feelings of worthlessness and express constant worry about social rejection, academic failure, and exhibit low self- esteem.
- “I’m just so mad!” Are tantrums, tears, and outbursts becoming the norm? Depressed children are often emotional, rather than sullen or withdrawn. Irritation with friends, siblings, or authority figures often occurs. Your child may express extreme frustration regarding his or her inability to communicate and be understood.
- “ I wish I could die.” Talk of death and self-destruction is serious. Too serious to ignore. Depression significantly increases the risk of suicide, even in children. Even if he or she is has no current intent to act, your child is trying to tell you how much pain he or she is in. Listen and act now.
Depression hurts. And when your child is in pain, you want to comfort him or her. That’s your job. You are perfectly right to take action. Seek the help of your pediatrician and a trusted, trained therapist immediately, if these symptoms apply to your child. To learn more about how a child counselor can help please call Crossroads Counseling at 623-680-3486 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.