Childhood Depression Is Not A Myth

A child suffering from depression is absolutely different from an adult undergoing it. In fact, it is different from a child's everyday emotions as well. Just because a child appears sad or says he or she is sad does not mean he or she is suffering from depression. If this sadness continues for days, parents need to look into the matter. And if the child's daily behavior interferes with regular, normal activities, be it in school, with friends or at home, it is indicative of depression. One must keep in mind that depression, though a serious ailment is highly treatable.

Depression symptoms vary in children. Often, such symptoms go untreated because we pass them off as normal psychological and emotional changes associated with growing up. While some children show their depression through anger, others, especially younger ones, display a mood similar to adults suffering from depression. The main symptoms of depression include social withdrawal, irritability, a feeling of hopelessness or sadness, fear of rejection, changes in sleep and appetite, crying, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating. Other complaints like headaches or stomachaches also abound. Children over the age of 12 often begin using alcohol or drugs while in a depressing mood.

Although rare, children (mainly girls) in a depressing state have attempted suicide as well. Most children show varied symptoms at different times and in varied settings. Poor academic performance, no interest in sports or other hobbies, marked changed in physical appearance bring out the changed mood in children. Depression is common among boys under the age of 10 and girls of age 14 onwards. Bipolar disorder occurs mainly among adolescents.

Like adults, depression in children can be the result of any factors relating to life events, physical health, environment, family history, biochemical disturbance and genetic vulnerability. It is not a passing mood or condition that can go away without treatment. Children having a family history of depression are definitely at greater risk of suffering from it. Children from disturbed or broken families are equally at risk.

If a child's changed behavior persists for two weeks, it is necessary to see the family physician first. That would help to know if any physical sickness is inducing this behavior. This should be followed by a visit to a child psychiatrist. The mental health professional interviews both the child and the parents to understand the situation apart from conducting some psychological tests. Information from friends, teachers and classmates are also useful in diagnosing the root cause of the problem.

Treatment for depressed children is similar to that of adults. It includes both psychotherapy or counseling and medication. The family's and friends' roles and the environment also play an important part in this treatment. Child psychiatrists usually go for psychotherapy first. Antidepressants are used only if no significant change occur.

Parents must understand the importance of treating depression. A child has to grow in a healthy manner both physically and mentally. It is equally important to know about the effects of depression in future when the child grows up. A close monitoring is necessary even after the child gets cured.