Our mental image of children is one of happiness–children playing, children laughing.
We do not readily think of children as being depressed. Depression does affect children, however, and it can be hard to diagnose.
Here are some signs of depression in children:
- Frequent crying and sadness
- A feeling of hopelessness or despair
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Sudden irritability and flashes of anger
- Overreaction to failure or rejection
- Preoccupation with songs that feature death, isolation and/or suicide
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Worsening school performance, trouble concentrating
- Threats of running away
- Oppositional or defiant behavior
Many of these signs of depression can be hard to distinguish from normal childhood behavior. For example, sudden irritability and oppositional behavior are fairly common in the teen years.
What you should be looking for is a sudden change, a change that seems out of character, or a combination of symptoms. You should also trust your parental instincts; if you suspect something is wrong, there’s a good chance something is.
If you suspect your child is depressed, talk with them and their health care provider.
If your child is not comfortable talking with you, ask them to talk with a trusted, responsible adult, such as their doctor, school counselor, pastor, or a teacher. Whatever you do, take signs of depression in children seriously, and do not ignore them.