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Depression in Children

What is depression?

Depression is an umbrella term for a group of illnesses called depressive disorders. We use the word depression because diagnosed children report persistently feeling sad, empty, or irritable. But these feelings alone don’t constitute a depressive disorder. Some children may not even appear sad at all.

We expect kids to feel downhearted after events like losing a loved one, but depressive episodes often don’t have clear causes. That’s why our specialists use careful judgment when differentiating sadness or grief from a persistent depressive disorder. 

Depression is more serious than feeling down. Depression is an illness accompanied by long-term mental and physical changes that affect the day-to-day lives of children in our community.

What kinds of depressive disorders are there?

Because we’ve learned a lot more about depression, healthcare providers can be a lot more specific about the depressive disorder your child shows symptoms for. Their diagnosis will influence the type or combination of treatments your child receives to help them manage their illness. If your child’s physician diagnoses them with a depressive disorder you may hear one of these names:

  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

While each of these disorders is unique, they’re united by a common set of symptoms that they present.

What are some mental (cognitive) symptoms of depression?

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, uselessness, guilt, or irritability.
  • Reduced interest in activities they’d normally find fun.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or self-destructive behavior.

What are some physical (somatic) symptoms of depression?

  • Bodily pain like headaches or stomachaches.
  • Sudden changes in energy like feelings of restlessness or fatigue and weakness.
  • Changes to sleep and eating patterns.
  • Self-harm.

Is depression treatable?

Depression is treatable! Your physician will work with your child to find a treatment that relieves their symptoms. Depending on their diagnosis, that may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or an anti-depressant (SSRI) prescription. It’s essential to get your child treatment if they’ve been diagnosed with depression by a licensed physician. These symptoms follow them into adulthood and don’t fix themselves.