Tuesday 6 February 2024

Warning Signs Of Depression In Childhood

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

As a parent, it can be natural to worry about your child. Even if you do everything in your power to create a safe, healthy, and loving home, the reality is that your children can still be affected by everyday life, whether physically or mentally. In recent years, awareness of mental health has rapidly expanded, spurring many parents to pay closer attention to the mental well-being of their children. However, parents may not be fully aware of the warning signs of common mental health conditions, such as depression.
Recognizing these signs early on and intervening while a child is still young can prove critical in safeguarding their mental well-being. Depression in children is a real and often overlooked concern, making it critical to be able to identify its symptoms. In this article, we will explore some common warning signs of depression in childhood, enabling you to address them should they affect your child. 
What Is Depression?
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is a specific type of “mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” Depression can impact both the brain and the body, leading to distorted thoughts and feelings and making it difficult to function from day to day. Those with depression may experience challenges completing everyday tasks. Left untreated, it can worsen and even lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. Therefore, being able to identify the presence of depression is vital. 
How Is Depression Treated? 
Depression is often treated with medication, therapy, or both. Confiding in a doctor and/or a mental health professional can be the first step toward getting the appropriate support. A medical professional can help determine which course of treatment is likely to be most effective and make adjustments as needed. 
Warning Signs Of Depression In Children
Depression affects everyone differently, which may make it difficult to spot when your child is struggling. While every child feels sad occasionally, depression is much more persistent and intense, interfering with everyday life. If you notice any of the following signs and symptoms in your child and they last for two weeks or more, your child may be experiencing depression. 

What To Do If Your Child Has Depression
Whether you suspect your child is experiencing depression or they’ve told you or someone else that they are, you can play a crucial role in their recovery. As their parent, taking the following steps may make a positive difference: 
Parents naturally worry about protecting their children and safeguarding their health, but the importance of mental well-being has only recently begun to gain ground. Now, as parents everywhere learn more about mental health, they’ve started paying closer attention to their children, doing what they can to ensure not only their physical but also their mental well-being. 
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in childhood, carrying with it the ability to significantly impact a child’s life if left untreated. By recognizing the warning signs of this serious disorder, parents can take a proactive approach to their children’s mental health, getting them the appropriate support and treatment. 
Depression may manifest in numerous ways, affecting kids in unique ways and to varying degrees. Parents can do their part by staying aware of any major differences in their child’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior, as well as creating a comfortable home environment where their child feels safe coming to them with any concerns. By being informed of depression and its symptoms, parents can help ensure that the right steps are taken should their child experience this challenging condition.
▪ Persistent sadness: Sadness is a normal human emotion, experienced by everyone at some point. However, kids with depression have a feeling of sadness that they can’t seem to shake. They may temporarily seem happy when you cook their favorite meal or when their friend comes to visit, but then return to a gloomy state soon after. Sadness that doesn’t dissipate despite effort and time could be a symptom of depression. 
▪ Loss of interest: Those with depression often lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed. Your child might have loved playing outside, doing crafts, or walking their dog, and then suddenly not seem interested in any of these hobbies anymore. While it’s natural to move on to new hobbies as they grow up, a child who appears to lack excitement in engaging with life as usual might be struggling with depression.  
▪ Sleep issues: Sleeping too much or complaining about not being able to fall or stay asleep could point to depression. Nightmares are also a possibility, particularly when they become night terrors. 
▪ Changes in eating habits: Whether overeating or undereating, noticeable changes in your child’s eating habits could be worrisome. Kids are always growing, meaning they may eat more than usual as they develop. However, sudden and intense changes in eating habits without an explanation could be concerning. 
▪ Reduced energy: Your child may be tired constantly and take frequent naps. They might withdraw to their room more often and opt to play video games or sit on their phone instead of playing outside or hanging out with friends. When your little one doesn’t have as much energy as they used to and there’s not a medical or other explanation, they could be experiencing symptoms of depression.
▪ Withdrawal: People with depression often pull away from their loved ones, believing they’re a burden or that no one wants to be around them. If your bubbly, talkative child starts to get quiet and doesn’t want to go out as much, it’s important to figure out why.
▪ Irritability: If your child is experiencing depression, you may notice that they’re more irritable or angry than usual. They might get upset quickly, even over small matters, or pick fights with you or their friends. Your child’s teacher may note that they’re causing more classroom disruptions or talking back. If these behaviors seem out of character, depression could be to blame. 
▪ Physical pains or problems: Your child may consistently complain that their tummy hurts or that they’re having repeated headaches. Even with treatment, these issues might not go away. Depression can often manifest in physical symptoms, making it crucial to consider whether their physical concerns might be something bigger.  
▪ Trouble in school: It could be cause for concern if your child has always done well in school and suddenly starts to fall behind. Your child may tell you that they can’t concentrate in the classroom, or you may notice that they don’t have any motivation to do their homework. Their teachers may also note behavioral concerns. Consider whether there might be another explanation for these changes, or whether depression could be the cause. 
▪ Encourage openness: When you have a child with depression, it can be important that they feel comfortable and safe coming to you about their thoughts and feelings. Talking about depression can be difficult, even for kids who feel close to their parents. Therefore, it can be helpful to check in with them regularly, asking about their day-to-day life as well as how they’re feeling. By creating a safe, open, and nonjudgmental space, parents can encourage vulnerability.
▪ Spend time with them: Spending quality time with your child and engaging in activities they enjoy can be vital in staying connected with them. Showing a genuine interest in them can also promote closeness and trust, enabling them to open up to you more. Additionally, because depression can make kids feel alone, encouraging them to get out and about may alleviate their symptoms and help them feel supported. 
▪ Teach them about self-care: Prevention methods such as self-care can go a long way in reducing your child’s risk of depression. Teach your child about the importance of getting a good night’s rest, eating healthy meals, and taking time to exercise and get outside. Help them find hobbies that they genuinely enjoy and encourage them to spend time with their friends. Everyday habits can add up, making a difference in your child’s mood and well-being. 
▪ Find them extra support: Part of being there for your child may involve admitting when you can’t provide all the resources and support that they need. Sometimes, they might need help from someone else, such as a school counselor or therapist. There may also be another trusted individual in their life that they feel more comfortable opening up with. Recognizing when your child might need extra guidance, and being willing to help them find it, is crucial to their well-being. When your child begins therapy, you may not know what to expect. Learn more about what this process might entail by visiting www.betterhelp.com/advice/parenting/what-to-know-before-your-child-begins-therapy/.

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