Many children have times when they are sad or down. Occasional sadness is a normal part of growing up. However, if children are sad, irritable, or no longer enjoy things, and this occurs day after day, it may be a sign that they are suffering from major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression. Some people think that only adults become depressed. In fact, children and adolescents can experience depression, and studies show that it is on the rise. More than one in seven teens experience depression each year.
Common symptoms of depression in children and adolescents include:
- Feeling or appearing depressed, sad, tearful, or irritable
- Not enjoying things as much as they used to
- Spending less time with friends or in after school activities
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Feeling tired or having less energy
- Feeling like everything is their fault or they are not good at anything
- Having more trouble concentrating
- Caring less about school or not doing as well in school
- Having thoughts of suicide or wanting to die
- Children also may have more physical complaints, such as frequent headaches or stomach aches.
- Depressed adolescents may use alcohol or other drugs as a way of trying to feel better.
If you think your child or teenager might be depressed, it is important to seek help. A pediatrician, school counselor, or qualified mental health professional can help by referring your child to someone who can conduct a comprehensive assessment, diagnose depression, and identify the right treatments. The good news is that there are several effective treatments for depression.
Learn more facts about depression in children and teens at the AACAP’s site, below: