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Depression in Children and Teens

Expressing Depression

DepressionDepression can express itself in different ways, especially in children and teens.[1] To understand depression, we must understand the unique child, as each child has his or her own way of being a child and being in this world.1 Children don’t always look sad when they are depressed, nor do their always look nervous when they are anxious.1 Understanding that baseline of happiness will help to gauge changes in behavior and mood.1

Children live in the here and now, and this is useful when it comes to determining depression.1 Sometimes, when a child is depressed, their body will be agitated and characterized by increased movement.1 This is called psychomotor agitation.1 Other times, their body movements may be slowed and limited.1 This is psychomotor retardation.1 Both warning signs of depression.1

It is important to listen to what the child is really saying.1 Are their answers to your questions often one word? This might be an indicator that they are unwilling or not wanting to say what is really going on.1 Something might be going on inside. If they talk about bad things on the news, depressing topics, or death or dying, this is a warning sign of depression.1 If the child or teen wonders out loud about what it is like to be dead, they should see a professional right away.1

Often mistaken as a symptom of conduct disorder, anger reveals much more, often sent to do the work of other emotions, such as sadness.1 Depression in children and teens doesn’t always look sad—it often looks angry.1 Anger is a strong emotion which leads people to back off, and if the child does not want to speak about their feeling, they will use anger to deter others from asking what is truly wrong.1

More warning signs of depression in children and teens are sleep problems and eating problems.1 Some sleep or eat too much, while others sleep or eat too little.1 It is important to take note of this.1

Causes of Adolescent Depression

Oftentimes, too much pressure to succeed or too little parental involvement can lead to depression symptoms.1 However, as anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, it is more likely the anxiety will be recognized than the depression.1 Parents, school professionals, and mental health workers often overlook depression.1

A Yearly Check-Up for Depression

A yearly mental health check-up for children who seem to be teetering on the fine line of depression is perfectly normal.1 The psychiatrist or therapist will often see children for an evaluative set of sessions.1 The professional will meet with the parents or caretakers and then the child for two or three sessions.1 When the professional reports back to the parents, they are able to identify the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and mental health issues.1 From there, treatment may or may not be needed; however, allowing the child to speak to someone other than their parents about their issues can lift a weight off their chest.1 Children don’t like to worry their parents.1 In turn, parents feel better after receiving a professional opinion, with feedback and recommendations for what is needed to avoid later issues or take care of current ones.1

Depression takes the joy out of life, and it is one of the world’s largest problems.1 More than 40 million Americans suffer from depression and/or anxiety.1 Suicide is one of the leading causes of death.1 Investing just a few sessions to learn how to prevent your child from becoming depressed or anxious, or to alleviate what they are already feeling, is worth it.1



[1] Mongelluzzo, N. B. (2013, October 10). Children, Teens, and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/angst-anxiety/2013/10/children-teens-and-depression/

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