Skip to main content

Depression in Children and Teens: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Depression in Children & Teens

Most of the people are not aware of the fact that depression in children does exist…!
Many of us do not realize that just like adults, small children and teenagers can struggle with varying types of depression and levels of severity. However, adults can recognize and understand the symptoms of depression whereas a child would likely feel confused, frustrated, and even angry because of the symptoms being experienced and no understanding of why. With the information in this article, parents would find it easier to recognize a potential problem, and also understand treatments that could be considered.

Depression in Children and Teens: Statistics, Facts & Considerations

Depression in Children & Teens: Statistics, Facts & Considerations

When talking about depression, the way it affects a person’s life and the various methods for dealing with depression, most people make a connection between this mental disorder and adults. While there are over 19 million adults living in the United States who have one type of depression or another, the latest statistics also show close to 2.5% of children in America suffer from this disorder and over 8% of teenagers have depression.

Although there are fewer small children with depression than there are teens and adults, the latest statistics are still alarming. According to experts, symptoms indicating depression have been identified in children as young as six years of age. Another statistic that is unnerving is that among children between the ages of nine and twelve, it is estimated that 12% have this mental health condition.

Unlike depression in adults where women are twice as likely to develop the condition as men are, in children, the rate of occurrence is pretty much equal for both genders. According to experts, depression in children is most often hereditary but sadly, as years pass, studies show the age at which a child develops depression is becoming younger and younger.

However, In the case of teenagers, while depression affects both boys and girls, studies show that girls suffer from this disorder at twice the rate as boys do.


We all know teen years are a time of excitement, discovery, and major change but for approximately 4 of every 100 teenagers it is also a period of coping with depression. It is important to know that all teenagers go through times of feeling sad and down but depression is a completely different beast.

Parents have a huge responsibility when it comes to raising teenagers but when depression is added to the mix, this responsibility takes on an entirely new meaning. There are many challenges associated with this mental health disorder but one particularly concerning is that some teenagers are really good at hiding symptoms of depression. Obviously, this makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify a problem of teenage depression.

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of adults, and when it comes to depression in children, the problem becomes far more serious. Most adults can rationalize to a certain degree about symptoms of and treatment for depression but in children, this is difficult to do.

Dealing with depression in children can be challenging but for the parents, it is a time of uncertainty, fear, and an array of other emotions. However, the goal is for the child to have a firm diagnosis, after which a series of treatment options would be recommended, discussed, and then an appropriate one chosen.

Obviously, there are significant differences in how depression would be handled in adults versus children. For instance, an adult could sit down with a psychotherapist to discuss a particular situation and have the ability to follow instructions for change whereby a child would not have this luxury. Even medication used for treating depression in adults would not necessarily be the same when coping with depression in children or at least not at the same dose.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Children & Teenagers

Unfortunately, because many adults are unaware that depression affects small children and teenagers, when things seem amiss, the possibility of a child having this mental disorder is often overlooked. As a result, an already struggling child faces even greater challenges. On a positive note, by learning the signs of depression, parents can take the appropriate steps quickly so that child is provided the relief needed. Below are some of the more common signs that a child could be dealing with depression:
  • Sadness, seldom laughing
  • Frustration
  • Temper tantrums
  • Appetite change
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Frequent crying for no reason
  • No desire to be hugged, kissed, or cuddled
  • Trying to avoid going to school, no longer participating in activities and decline of grades
  • Isolation and little interest in friends
If one or more of these symptoms of childhood depression are noted, the child should first be seen by a trusted doctor. Keep in mind that there are certain health issues that could trigger depression in children. So by getting the child’s medical history, finding out about any recent changes in health, and running a number of tests, any specific underlying cause that would require a different type of treatment could be ruled in or ruled out.

Signs and Symptoms of Teenage Depression

All parents, even those with happy, high achieving teenagers should be diligent in watching for signs of depression. In many cases, having open communication and spending quality time with a teen can tell a parent a lot but in addition to this, there are distinct signs of teenage depression that parents should learn.

From a doctor’s perspective, a diagnosis of depression would be made if a teenager has any of the symptoms listed below for more than two weeks straight.
  • School performance changes
  • Overwhelming feeling of anxiety and/or guilt
  • Significant change in appetite, whether more or less
  • Showing a defiant and/or destructive behavior
  • Becoming increasingly isolated and being persistently unhappy
  • Change in sleep habits to include sleeping more or not getting enough sleep
  • Becoming easily angered and irritated
  • Complaining of physical aches and pains
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • No longer communicating at home, school, and in some cases, with friends
  • Expressing a sense of hopelessness
  • Reduced energy and extreme fatigue
  • Consistently talks about death and/or suicide
Of course, if a parent were to notice radical changes or have any concerns about teenage depression whatsoever, it would be imperative to seek immediate help. The most important thing for a parent to know is that immediate medical and/or mental health care is critical when a teenager is dealing with depression. Sadly, there have been far too many suicides as a result of not getting a child help.

  See also: Teenage Depression: Statistics, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention 

What Causes Depression in Children and Teens

Before a treatment would be determined for dealing with depression in a child, it would be essential to understand the cause. If a child had been seen by a doctor and the cause was not health-related, parents would need to start considering other possibilities.

Remember, children are affected by divorce, death, major illness, and trauma just as adults are so if a child had faced any such situation, this would likely be the source. If not, parents would need to investigate so that the underlying cause could be identified.

Additional causes of depression in children include the following:

· Mental, emotional, or even sexual abuse
· Bullying
· Recent move to a new neighborhood, city, or state or a close friend that moved away
· Conflict with a friend or family member
· Mental Illness
· Certain prescription medications
· Alcohol and/or drug abuse 

Causes of Teenage Depression

Just as it is important to know the symptoms of teenage depression, parents should also take time to learn about possible causes. While there are still many unanswered questions, the following are some of the known factors that lead to depression during teen years:
  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Biological Factors
  • Cognitive Factors
  • Situational Factors (includes parental divorce, death of a loved one, poor school grades, alcohol and/or drug use, mental, physical, and/or emotional abuse, and social rejection/peer pressure)

How to Beat and Treat Depression in Children and Teens

In talking about how to treat depression in children, this is accomplished in two ways – prevention and treatment.

Prevention of Depression in Children

There are many ways to prevent sadness from developing into full-fledged depression. Keep in mind that even very small children do an excellent job in hiding true feelings. Especially when living in a single family home, children want to keep the peace and make the parent happy so when something is wrong, rather than open up it is common for children to put their own emotions aside on behalf of the family.

However, some children act in the complete opposite way. For instance, some small children will start to misbehave when feeling depressed. This might include severe temper tantrums, stealing small items from a store, talking back to parents, or being disrespectful in school. Instead of assuming the child is simply being bad, a parent should recognize the new behavior and consider that depression might be the culprit.

As part of learning how to treat depression in children, here are a few specific points regarding methods for preventing this type of problem from ever developing:

· Listen to the Child – Sometimes, really listening to what a small child is trying to say can be tough. For one thing, we all have extremely busy lives so just getting through the day and handling responsibilities makes it difficult to concentrate on a conversation or even behavior of a small child. In addition, small children often have a difficult time getting important messages across. By spending one-on-one time with a child daily, asking questions but more importantly listening can reveal a lot. Even if a child’s comments seem odd or silly, they should be taken seriously.

· Regular Routines – Some children have no problem with change while others quickly spiral out of control. Establishing a regular routine would be critical for all children but most importantly for children who struggle with change. This would include time of waking up and going to bed, routine for doing homework, and even scheduled family fun time. Interestingly, studies have shown that when children do not get adequate sleep, depression often develops.

· Good Deeds – As parents, a bad habit of reprimanding bad behavior opposed to praising good behavior forms. Even small words of praise are extremely encouraging to a child, which is why so many experts tell parents who want to know how to stop depression to still discipline but focus on offering praise.

· Affirmation – Children need to know things they feel, think, and believe are affirmed by parents. For instance, if a child is mad, rather than get upset or sweep the problem under the rug, a child’s emotions and feelings need to be affirmed. For this example, a parent could tell the child that it is understood he or she is upset, but also following up to listen to the reason and offering suggestions for appropriate resolution.

· Availability – The last thing we wanted to mention with learning how to stop depression in children specific to prevention is that parents must be available. Taking one minute to hug a child at home after school and work, sitting quietly when a child approaches a parent and wants to chat, and scheduling for quality time are perfect examples of how a parent can be more available.

Treatment of Depression in Children

The second part of how to treat depression in children is treatment. Before doing anything, the child should be seen by a doctor who could provide a firm diagnosis of depression but also determine its true level of severity. Once a health issue is ruled out and the cause determined, dealing with depression in children would be easier.

Usually, if a child is suffering from a mild case of depression, certain lifestyle changes and at-home treatments would suffice. In addition, using any of the preventative suggestions listed above would be highly beneficial.

If the degree of depression is considered serious, then treatment would be imperative. Again, under the care of a qualified doctor, the child would be examined and diagnosed, after which one or more treatment options would be recommended.

In severe cases, learning how to treat depression in children should always start with a trained doctor, not something parents try to fix on their own. Of course, actual treatment would be on an individual basis since each case is unique.

Keep in mind that there are occasions when a child would need a more aggressive treatment plan, most respond favorably with any of the following treatments:

Counseling & Therapy

· Professional Counseling – Often, meeting with a child counselor or therapist works great in getting a child to reveal the reason or reasons for feeling depressed. Parents like to think that children tell them everything but as mentioned, this is simply not the case. Having the opportunity for a child to sit down with a trained psychologist or psychotherapist could clear up many issues the child is facing. In addition to the child being provided counseling, more than likely some type of family counseling would be recommended.

· Family Therapy – Depression in children is a family affair but all too often, children feel as if they are alone with the way they feel and the problems they are struggling with. When it comes to learning how to stop depression in children, a lot can be said about family therapy and the way it provides support and affirmation to the child.

· Behavioral and/or Cognitive Therapy – These therapies are designed to correct unwanted behaviors and negative thoughts that are often associated with depression. [See more: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)]

· “Fun Therapy – Today, children with depression are being treated with unique forms of therapy that have been shown helpful. Usually, children who have withdrawn, have a hard time with expression, or those not responding to more conventional therapies would be ideal candidates. Examples include horseback riding therapy, swimming therapy, and drama therapy. This in combination with the use of natural herbs for depression can work miracles.

Medication

Depending on the child’s type of depression and level of severity, as well as age and any existing health issues, prescription medication might be suggested. At a small dose, children can be prescribed Zoloft or Prozac but only under the careful eye of a qualified doctor.

Alternative Treatments

Certain supplements would also be a possibility but in children, plants, herbs, and essential oils, along with vitamins and minerals can be harsh on a small child’s system so only supplements approved by the doctor should be considered.

Lifestyle Changes

Numerous studies have been performed to see if change of lifestyle works when dealing with depression and they all show significant improvement. This would include getting a child involved with some kind of sport or activity, offering options for hobbies, getting daily exercise, adopting healthy eating habits, setting a scheduled bedtime, and so on.

Support

The last option for dealing with depression in children we wanted to mention is the value of support. In most cases, a child who is provided with strong family support, as well as support at school and from friends, pulls out of a period of depression quicker and easier than a child without support.

Treatment for Teenage Depression

No matter which of the symptoms of teenage depression a person has or the exact cause, the most critical thing a parent can do is get the child appropriate help. Because of a much better understanding of this disorder by the doctors nowadays, new treatments proven to be safe and effective have been developed. Some of the treatments for teenage depression that are commonly used include the following:

· Psychotherapy – This type of treatment offers teenagers a solution that involves communicating about emotions and feelings, exploring some of the things that are bothersome, and learning coping skills.

· Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy – Experts agree that in treatment teenage depression, it is essential to provide both types of therapies. Together, a teen has the opportunity to make both mental and behavioral changes for the better. [See more: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)]

· Interpersonal Therapy – As another type of treatment that has been shown extremely beneficial, interpersonal therapy’s focus is on the development of healthy relationships within the home but also at school.

· Medication – Although some parents shy away from prescription medications, there are certain types of depression, as severe cases that respond best to this type of treatment. A qualified doctor would take everything into consideration so only the safest and lowest dose medication would be used. Of course, adjustments could be made accordingly if needed.

· Self-Help – This type of treatment for teenage depression consists of making better choices in life to better oneself. In the case of a teenagers, it would be important for parents to offer full support and encouragement. Some of the specific things involved with self-help include adopting a better diet, getting exercise on a daily basis, avoiding illicit drugs and alcohol, following a healthy sleep schedule, and overall making healthy lifestyle choices.

· Natural Remedies – We also wanted to mention that in certain cases of teenage depression, natural remedies work incredibly well. No matter the delivery system, as long as high quality ingredients are used and in conjunction with other ingredients that reduce symptoms of depression, natural remedies have been shown beneficial for mild to moderate cases.

Comments

Other Posts

How to Build Self-Confidence & Improve Self-Esteem : 5 Ways

How to Build Self-Confidence & Improve Self-Esteem Self-Confidence Meaning Self Confidence is a belief on ones abilities. In the purest form it expresses how much belief you have in your own abilities, in any field. You can have great self confidence in your soccer abilities but when it comes to relationships, you are lost. So it varies on the field which we are examining. We all have our strong and weak sides, and that’s okay. The problem begins when we disregard and undervalue ourselves, and lose faith in ourselves. This is what you should focus on, when building self confidence. You should focus on your strong sides and remind yourself of the things you are proud of, of the things that you are very good at. When you focus on the things you are proud of, you start feeling great about yourself and you begin to acknowledge your advantages as well. This leads to strong sense of self-appreciation and confidence. How to Gain Self-Confidence: 5 Essential Ways Do you want

Quick Progressive Muscle Relaxation script

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a stress management technique developed by Edmund Jacobson, Physical Therapist in early 1920s. According to Jacobson, since mental stress and anxiety accompanies muscular tension, one can reduce stress and anxiety  by learning to relax muscle tension.  Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation  ( JPMR ) technique (exercise/therapy) is still popular among modern physiotherapists as well as psychotherapists. What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be defined as a relaxation response to daily stressors. It is a psychophysical therapy that can be used to reduce tension and physical pain, and to help clients learn to be more conscious of their own bodily sensations and body posture. It comprises a sequence of techniques designed to systematically relax specific muscle groups, increase awareness of bodily sensations, and facilitate a shift from a focused to a more de

How to Deal with Depression Alone: Overcome Depression on Your Own

How to Deal with Depression Depression leaves devastation in its wake, but fortunately there is something that can be done about it. At this day and age, people are more aware of the harmful impact that untreated depression can lead to. Modern advances have more or less minimized the recurrence of depression once identified and treated. Knowing how to deal with depression will definitely save a life, yours or a loved one’s. Depression occurs more commonly than we think, and has varying impact to a person’s life. Depending on the individual lifestyle, coping mechanism and personality, it could range from manageable to disastrous. Symptoms could also vary, and a depressed person may exhibit frequent emotional down-times manifested through crying. It may also affect sexual desire, alienation from family and friends, as well as difficulty in finding meaning in life. A person with depression is also disinterested in participating in group activities, and may end up neglecting personal an