How do you know if your Child is Depressed?

Sadness or depression? photo by Rhendi Rukmana

Sadness or Depression?

Sometimes children are sad. Sadness is an emotional response to upsetting life events – the death of a pet or moving away from friends. Normal sadness is transient and usually goes away within a day or two. However, parents should be concerned when low mood is persistent (for more than two weeks) and begins to interfere with how their child thinks, feels and behaves on a daily basis.

Depression in Children

Depression in children is often related to a significant change in a child’s normal behavior rather than outward indicators of sadness. Fortunately, parents have the unique advantage of being the experts on what is normal for their child.

Signs of Depression in Children [1] [2]

Emotional Changes

  • Increased irritability or anger
    • She’s started throwing tantrums or blowing up for little or no apparent reason.
  •  Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
    • She’s been crying more
    • She talks about feeling sad, lonely, hopeless or “like a loser”
  • Increased fatigue and low energy
    • She’s lost interest in things she usually enjoys
    • She sits around and doesn’t want to do anything.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

Physical Changes

  • Changes in appetite (either increased or decreased)
    • She’s started eating and snacking to soothe herself—or she’s eating way less than usual
  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)
    • She can’t seem to sleep—or she’s sleeping a lot more than she used to
  • Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don't respond to treatment
    • She’s been complaining about bellyaches or other vague pains. You’re getting frequent calls from the school nurse

Social and Behavioral Changes

  • Impaired thinking or difficulty concentrating
    • Her teachers say she seems to be having trouble focusing
    • Her grades are dropping
  • Reduced ability to function
    • She’s losing skills, such as good study habits or her ability to stay organized
    • Or she may be regressing: school aged children may return to bedwetting or acting “babyish,” for example
  • Social withdrawal or increased sensitivity to rejection
    • She’s become more isolated
    • She avoids spending time with even her favorite friends
  • Increase in risky behavior
    • She engages in self-destructive behavior such as dangerous or reckless play, cutting herself, using drugs or being sexually promiscuous
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
    • Death has become a theme in her pretend play, art, writing or conversation

Next Steps

If you are concerned about your child's mental health or have received a diagnosis for your child that you need support with Edgar Psychological can help.