Disorders in Children & Adolescents
Is Your Child Depressed?
- Leslie Earll, Ph.D., Child Psychiatrist - 1997
of depression in children are much like those suffered by adults: moodiness;
loss of interest or pleasure in activities; sleeping and/or eating disturbances
(too little, or too much); fatigue and loss of energy; and commonly,
an inappropriate sense of guilt.
The particular characteristics will vary according to
the developmental level of your child. For example, infants who are
depressed appear listless, withdrawn, and apathetic, and seem unresponsive.
Your infant may sleep fitfully, cry excessively and exhibit weight loss,
resulting from a decreased appetite.
School-aged children may appear sad, be uninterested
in normal activities, cry frequently and express a sense of rejection.
They may also have temper tantrums and aggressive behavior, atypical
of their normal persona. Bodily symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches
or unexplained pains, are common.
Adolescents may have severe and extensive mood swings,
beyond the normal puberty hormonal changes. Parents may observe falling
grades and new and undesirable friends. This may signal substance abuse,
a result of depression. In addition, your teen may feel unloved or unworthy,
exhibit unusually low self-esteem, and isolate from friends and family.
As a parent, you must be attentive. Observe your child,
his interaction with others, his response to normal activities and situations.
Try to draw him out. Talk with him about school, his friends, his performance
in school, and how he feels about himself. Has there been a significant
change in your child's world, or a stressful event? Divorce, loss of
a pet or loved one, moving, or a new sibling are stressful situations,
and may induce a depression. Other possible triggers include the traumatic,
such as physical or sexual abuse. Has your child's interpretation of
a situation caused stress? A negative statement by a peer or a beloved
teacher may be taken to heart by a sensitive child, triggering a depression.
Each child's perception is unique. Different triggers affect each child
differently. Know your child.
Discuss your concerns about your child with other adults
and professionals. School teachers, child care providers, counselors,
coaches, church and activity leaders outside of school may notice such
behavioral changes as decreased involvement, lower self-esteem, lack
of enthusiasm, or a tendency to isolate or detach from normal group
If the depressive feelings seem to persist, short-term
professional counseling may be a consideration. Let your child know
that he need not feel continually sad, and that talking about his feelings
is a good, healthy outlet.
In most instances, short-term therapy will alleviate
a depression. Also in most cases, the depression does not recur. However,
evaluation with a psychiatrist may be necessary for a more serious,
persistent depression. Treatment with medication may be required.
MEET YOUR PAL
Leslie A Earll MD
completed medical school and psychiatric residency in child, adolescent,
and adult psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine in
Washington D.C. Dr. Earll's experience includes work with a broad range
of psychiatric disorders involving therapeutic interventions as well
as treatment with psychiatric medications when appropriate. Areas of
special expertise include treatment of attention deficit disorder, childhood
depression and anxiety disorders.