Depression

Information for Parents and Caregivers

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,  many children have times when they are sad or down. Occasional sadness is a normal part of growing up. However, if children are sad, irritable, or no longer enjoy things, and this occurs day after day, it may be a sign that they are suffering from major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression.

Some people think that only adults become depressed. However, children and adolescents suffer from depression at any given time. By the end of high school, approximately one young person in five will have had at least one episode of depression.

Children and adolescents who are under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct, or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness.

Examples of behaviors often seen in children with depression include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time

  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things

  • Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual

  • Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal

  • Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time

  • Having a hard time paying attention

  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty

  • Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior

Some children may not talk about their helpless and hopeless thoughts, and may not appear sad. Depression might also cause a child to make trouble or act unmotivated, causing others not to notice that the child is depressed or to incorrectly label the child as a trouble-maker or lazy.

While stressful life events, like divorce, may contribute to depression, it's only a small piece of the puzzle. Many other factors, including genetics, also play a role in its development. 

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to childhood depression including:

  • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters and hormones may play a role in how the brain works, which can affect moods and emotions and increase the risk of experiencing depression.

  • Environmental factors: A stressful, chaotic, or unstable home environment can also make children more likely to experience depression. Rejection and bullying at school may also be a contributing factor.

  • Family history: Children with family members who also have mood disorders such as depression are at a greater risk for also experiencing symptoms of depressive disorders.

  • Stress or trauma: Sudden changes such as moving or divorce, or traumatic events such as abuse or assault can also contribute to feelings of depression.

Depression and anxiety can be caused by various traumatic experiences. 

Causes

Trauma Types: 

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Resources:

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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.