Not only adults become depressed. Children and teenagers
may also have depression. Depression is defined as an illness when
the depressive condition persists. Depression also interferes with
the way children and teenagers function at school, at home and socially.
Significant depression probably exists in about 5
percent of children and adolescents in the general population. Children
under stress, who experience loss, or who have disorders of attention,
learning or behaviour are at higher risk for depression.
The behaviour of depressed children and teenagers
differs from the behaviour of depressed adults. Child & adolescent
psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of things in their youngsters
an irritability to enjoy previously favourite activities
increased activity or irritability
frequent complaints of physical illness such as
headaches and stomachaches
frequent absences from school or poor performance
persistent boredom, low energy, poor concentration
a major change in eating and/or sleeping habits
A child who used to play often with friends may
now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that
were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children
who are depressed may seem more irritable or complain of boredom as
opposed to sadness. They may say they want to be dead or may talk
about suicide. Depressed teenagers may abuse alcohol or other drugs
as a way to feel better.
Depressed youngsters engage in fewer pleasant activities.
They often have trouble with academic achievement and motivation.
Their thinking may be negativistic and pessimistic with thoughts
of hopelessness and helplessness. These children may have low self-esteem
and make self deprecating statements. They overreact emotionally
with negative thoughts and blame themselves for perceived failures.
They experience increased stressful events as well as increased
interpersonal conflicts. It is becoming increasingly clear that
these difficulties are risk factors for depression and therefore
should be closely monitored.
Children and adolescents who cause trouble at home
or at school may actually be depressed but not know it. Because
the youngster may not always seem sad. Parents and teachers may
not realise the troublesome behaviour is a sign of depression. When
asked directly, these children can sometimes state that they are
unhappy or sad. Depression is a high risk factor for suicide in
Both depression and suicidal feelings are treatable
disorders. Early diagnosis and medical treatment are essential for
depressed youngsters. For help, parents should ask their physician
to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who can diagnose
and treat depression in children and teenagers.