Child Depression

Depression treatment options for kids

Depression is the most common mental health problem today. It affects not only adults, but also children and teenagers. Experts estimate that about 1 in 33 children are affected by depression. By the teenage years, this number rises to about 1 in 8.

Child depression is often misunderstood, in part because children are often unaware of their own changes in mood. It's important for parents to closely monitor their children and watch for signs of depression. Depression symptoms are often mistaken for sullenness or rebellious behavior, so it's a good idea to do some reading and find out precisely what signs you should be watching for. Some forms of depression, such as manic depression (which can include wild mood swings and periods of euphoria), are often misdiagnosed because they don't take the form of stereotypical depression.


What should you be watching for? Depression is more than just the occasional bad mood. It's normal for kids and teens to experience mood swings and occasional feelings of sadness. When negative feelings endure for weeks or even months, then the situation may be accurately described as clinical depression. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a foolproof depression test that can definitively tell you whether your child is suffering from depression. If you suspect that your child is depressed, seek out the help of a professional. Ask your doctor about the best places to reach out for depression help.

Types of depression

Depression can be categorized into a few different types. Major depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, worthlessness or simply nothingness that last for weeks or even months. In many cases, major depression causes a loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping (or difficulty remaining awake).

Dysthymia is also characterized by feelings of sadness or worthlessness, but it is often not as severe as major depression and the feelings can endure for a much longer period of time (sometimes years). In children, it is often related to low self-esteem and problems with appetite.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a unique type of depression because it includes not only the feelings of sadness that are pervasive in other types of depression, but also periods of high-energy mania and euphoria. There is limited research into how bipolar disorder affects children and teens, but initial estimates are that about one percent of children may be affected. It's thought that children and teens with bipolar disorder are more likely to also suffer from other mental disorders, such as ADHD or anxiety.

Depression treatment options

It should come as no surprise that treating depression in children is not the same as treating it in adults. The depression counseling techniques that work for many adults may be completely inneffective for children. In many cases, psychotherapy can be highly effective. It's not unusual for antidepressant medication to be prescribed, but it's not the best option for all children. Treatment is usually provided in an outpatient setting, but occasionally inpatient care may be required.

Ultimately, it's important for health care professionally to look at each case individually and develop a treatment plan tailored to each child's needs.

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