What is Childhood Depression & What can we do to Prevent it?

Depression is a condition that is more severe than normal sadness and can significantly interfere with a child’s ability to function.

Childhood Depression

It is different from the everyday “blues” that most kids get as they develop. The fact that a child feels sad, lonely, or irritable does not mean he or she has childhood depression.
Childhood depression is persistent sadness. When it occurs, the child feels alone, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When this type of sadness is unending, it disrupts every part of the child’s life.

What Causes Childhood Depression?

The causes of childhood depression are unknown. It could be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability, and biochemical disturbance.

Childhood Depression Symptoms

Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. Depressive disorders are characterized by pervasive mood changes that affect all aspects of an individual’s daily functioning.

Symptoms of depression also include :

    • helplessness,
    • guilt,
    • feelings of worthlessness,
    • hopelessness,
    • loss of energy,
    • loss of appetite,
    • lack of interest in daily activities,
    • irritability,
    • sleep problems,
    • self-loathing,
    • thoughts of suicide.

What can we do to prevent it?

Interventions that try to augment family resilience, improve parent and child communication and parental monitoring and supervision are effective, and for adolescents, adaptations of cognitive behaviour and interpersonal therapies have been shown to prevent depression.

  • Feeling sad or blue and/or irritable or seeming that way as observed by others (for examples, tearfulness or otherwise looking persistently sad.
  • Significant appetite changes, with or without significant weight loss, failing to gain weight appropriately or gaining excessive weight
  • Change in sleep pattern: trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Physical agitation or retardation (for example, restlessness or feeling slowed down)
  • Fatigue or low energy/loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless, excessively guilty, or tend to self-blame
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Children with depression may also experience the classic symptoms but may exhibit other symptoms as well, including

  • impaired performance of schoolwork,
  • persistent boredom,
  • quickness to anger,
  • frequent physical complaints, like headaches and stomach aches,
  • more risk-taking behaviours and/or showing less concern for their own safety.

Parents of infants and children with depression often report noticing the following behaviour changes in the child:

  • Crying more often or more easily
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism or other negative experiences
  • More irritable mood than usual or compared to others their age and gender, leading to vocal or physical outbursts, defiant, destructive, angry or other acting out behaviours
  • Eating patterns, sleeping patterns.
  • Young children may act younger than their age or then they had before (regress).