Childhood Depression expresses itself in a variety of ways. Mimicking what includes the normal emotional and psychological changes occurring during this stage of life, childhood depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Many children display sadness or flat affect similar to adults who are depressed, while others act out the sadness through angry outbursts. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a sense of hopelessness, and mood changes.
Have you noticed that your child displays:
- Irritability, explosiveness or crying;
- Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness;
- Social withdrawal from family members and friends;
- Heightened sensitivity to rejection;
- Changes in appetite-either increased or decreased;
- Changes in sleep-sleeplessness or excessive;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches, that don’t respond to treatment;
- Disinterest in participating in activities at home or with friends, in school, and in other hobbies or interests;
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt;
- Thoughts of death or suicide?
If you have observed that some of the above characteristics describe your child or you have observed a pattern of them, it is important that you seek the services of a mental health professional. Since children display different symptoms at different times and places, you may not see the same characteristics surface all of the time. While your child may continue to function effectively in structured environments, if he/she is struggling with depression noticeable changes will be evident in his/her academic and/or social functioning, as well as in their appearance. Children over the age of twelve may also being experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
Regardless of the age of your child, professional help is available for him/her and you. Through the therapeutic relationship and collaboration with you, the best interests of your child can be addressed and more manageable, peaceful and joyful lives can be brought about for both of you!
ADOLESCENT GROWING PAINS OR DEPRESSION?
Teens today are particularly vulnerable to depression and anxiety as a result of the social, emotional and social media onslaughts which they are subjected to on a continual basis. Whether it is in the classroom, the cafeteria or the privacy of their own rooms, the feelings of low self-esteem and hopelessness go with them. They cannot deposit them into an emotional “Out” box or “Delete” them from their servers!
The screens flash relentless reminders of their pain and you must be aware of them! Have you:
- viewed your teenager’s mood swings and sudden outbursts as just typical expression of “teens being teens?”
- wondered whether what you are observing is far more complicated and serious than you might have realized?
- watched your son/daughter stop talking about friends and be less attentive to his appearance?
- watched your daughter/son withdraw into his room with a locked door and minimal communication?
These behaviors warrant attention. They may be signs of depression, which is a serious medical condition affecting people across the life span, including children and adolescents. The National Institute of Health characterizes depression as a prolonged, sad feeling accompanied by a sense of hopelessness and isolation.
Depression manifests itself through a variety of signs and symptoms; some are obvious, while others tend to be more oblique. The symptoms most often observed include loss of appetite; change in sleep patterns; inability to concentrate or to pay attention to tasks at hand; psychosomatic aches and pains, having no identifiable medical cause; digestive problems that continue in spite of medical treatment; loss of interest and participation in previously desired activities or hobbies; suicidal thoughts in more extreme cases.
Have you noticed any of these symptoms in your child or adolescent? If this is occurring it is time to speak with a professionally trained, objective third party. Within the therapeutic environment you child will learn how to own his/her feelings; to develop tools to handle them; and to integrate change in his/her life. Going forward, when difficult feelings arise, as they always do, they can be addressed proactively. They do not have to take over your child’s life.
Depression generally is associated with the internalization of sad feelings and a forlorn and withdrawn outward appearance. However, an even larger percentage of depressed children and adolescents act on their emotions in a paradoxical way. These groups are characterized by behaviors which are often angry and explosive. These aggressive peer interaction result in difficulties forming and maintaining positive relationships. Have you noticed that your teen has become estranged from his friends? Has he been unable to form new friendships?
This pushing away dynamic makes it difficult to form and to maintain friendships. Within the school setting physical aggression and frequent school suspensions are commonplace. The teens involved have problems understanding their feelings, communicating their needs and coping with the social, emotional and physical changes that are part of adolescence. Unfortunately, many of them have learned to discharge their feelings of internal confusion and of loss of control through acting-out behaviors. Is your child crying out for your attention through negative behavior?
Any young person who is struggling with depression needs the support of the parents and the school. It is imperative that he/she knows that he is not alone in this struggle. While the adolescent thinks these feelings will last forever, they do not. He must learn that this is the case. Within the therapeutic relationship your child will experience emotional relearning, cognitive reframing and behavioral modifications. He will learn how to experience the feelings, while not being pulled into the riptides of depression, and move through this stage of life in a healthier way. While the challenges are real, the potential for growth and a healthy future are significant!