What is child and adolescent depression?
Depression is a serious mood disorder that the child is deprived of the opportunity to enjoy life. It is quite natural, if the child will sometimes be sad or will not be in the spirit. This can happen as a result of the death of your beloved pet or moving to another city. However, if such feelings do not go away for weeks or even months, this may be the first sign of depression.
In the past, experts were convinced that only adults can become depressed. Now we know that even the smallest child can get depression, which needs treatment. Scientists claim that every third child out of 100 and every ninth teenager out of 100 suffer from acute depression.
Despite these facts. Not all children receive the necessary treatment. Very often this is due to the fact that it is very difficult to distinguish between depression and natural mood swings. In addition, the symptoms of depression in children are not always the same as in adults.
If you are worried about your child, learn more about the symptoms of depression in children. Talk to your child to find out how he feels. If you suspect your child is depressed, talk to a pediatrician or psychotherapist. The sooner you start treating a child, the sooner it will be better.
What are the symptoms of depression in children?
A child may be depressed if he or she:
- Most of the time, grumpy, sullen and bored
- Sometime favorite activities do not please him/her
Childhood depression is manifested by such symptoms:
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased sleepiness or vice versa, insomnia
- Sense of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
- Difficult to concentrate, think or make decision
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
At the beginning, the symptoms of depression are often simply not noticed. It is very difficult to determine that all these symptoms are part of one big problem.
Also, the symptoms of depression depend on the age of the child:
- Small children may be lethargic, passive, and withdrawn. They do not show their emotions, it seems that they feel hopeless and their sleep is disturbed.
- Children of primary school age suffer from frequent headaches or indigestion. They lose interest in friends and sometime favorite activities. Some children, especially those with severe depression, can see and hear non-existent things (hallucinations) or believe in delusions (illusions).
- Teenagers can sleep and talk a lot and move very slowly, which they have never had before. They may also have hallucinations or illusions.
Depression can vary from mild to severe. If the child most of the time is in a depressed mood for a year or even two, most likely he has a mild, prolonged form of depression called dysthymia. With the most serious form of the disease, the child loses all hope and wants to die.
Despite the severity of the disease, depression can be cured.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are still not fully understood. But its occurrence is associated with an imbalance of the chemical elements of the brain, which are responsible for the mood of a person. Factors that cause such an imbalance include:
- Stressful situations in life, for example, a change of school, a divorce of parents or the death of a family member.
- Certain medicines, such as steroids or drugs, used as painkillers.
- Hereditary predisposition In most cases, depression is inherited.
How is depression diagnosed?
To make a correct diagnosis, the doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask questions about the past diseases of the child. The doctor may ask you to complete a questionnaire regarding the child’s symptoms. After that, having put the child a number of specific questions, the doctor will recognize the child’s thoughts, how he usually behaves and what he feels.
Some physical illnesses may have the same symptoms as depression. Therefore, a doctor may prescribe a laboratory test to rule out a physical illness, such as thyroid dysfunction or anemia.
Very often, if the child has depression, he has another mental disorder, such as anxiety syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or eating disorders. By asking questions about these diseases, the doctor will be able to make the correct diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment.
How is depression treated?
Often the first step in treating depression is to educate the child and his family about depression. Such knowledge helps to achieve the greatest effect in the treatment of depression. This knowledge will help them avoid accusations of depression. Sometimes this knowledge helps other family members realize that they are also sick with depression.
Psychotherapy sessions will help the child feel much better. The type of therapy will depend on the age of the child. For very young children, play therapy is used. Other children and adolescents are prescribed behavioral therapy. Such therapy will help them to replace negative thoughts, which cause depression, with positive ones.
Another method of treatment, if the child has a severe form of depression, is to take antidepressants. The most effective treatment is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. With very complex forms of the disease hospitalization is possible.
You can help your child feel better at home:
- Insist that the child go in for sports, eat healthy food and get enough sleep.
- Make sure the child does not miss the time of taking the medication or therapy sessions.
- Always find time to talk and listen to the child. Ask him/her about your feelings. Show him/her your support and love.
- Remind your child that over time, everything will change for the better.
What you need to know about antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a really effective treatment for depression in children, but there are a number of things you should know.
- If a child takes anti-depressants, he should be under constant surveillance. These medications carry the risk of suicidal thoughts, especially during the first weeks of treatment. Learn all the possible side effects of the drug your child is taking to be able to immediately help him as soon as you notice them. Side effects include:
– conversations, letters or pictures about death
– distribution of own things
– estrangement from relatives and friends
– the presence of a murder weapon, such as a pistol or pills
- Relief, as a rule, comes after 3 weeks of taking the drug, but it will take from 6 to 8 weeks to see more results. Make sure that the child takes the medication strictly on prescription and long enough to allow the medication time to act.
- It may be necessary for a child to try several different types of antidepressants until he finds one that helps him. If you have any questions regarding the medication being taken or relief did not come after 3 weeks, consult your doctor.
- Do not allow your child to stop taking antidepressants suddenly. Is it dangerous. The doctor will help you gradually reduce the dose of the drug so that you can refuse it without consequences.