Signs Your Child May Be Depressed

Signs Your Child May Be Depressed

Matthew J. Bruhin provides counseling services for children in the San Diego area. While effective techniques such as play therapy, talk therapy, and family therapy, as well as coping skills training and more are available, it is first important to recognize signs of a problem. Children sometimes feel sad or irritated. However, lingering negative thoughts and feelings are among the warning signs seen in depressed children.

A mood disorder and form of mental illness, depression can take different forms. For children, it can manifest in ways you don’t understand. Your child may seem angry or irritable; as a parent, you may interpret their actions as disrespect or having a bad attitude.

Identifying Depression in Children

If your child is depressed, the symptoms tend to last for weeks, months, or more. Depression affects how one feels, acts, and thinks. It can look like the following in children:

  • Negative thinking: Your child may be self-critical, complain, or act discouraged.
  • Lack of effort: They may exhibit a loss of interest in or give up easily on schoolwork and other activities.
  • Withdrawal: Aside from seeming tired, they may avoid contact with family and friends.
  • Anger: Often “on edge,” they may have temper tantrums or be irritable or extremely sensitive to criticism/rejection.
  • Changes in habits: Increased/decreased appetite, too little/too much sleep, and a reduced interest in activities, hobbies, and interests.

Other signs of depression in children include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, etc.)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Verbal outbursts
  • Suicidal thoughts

What Triggers Depression in Children?

If there is a family history of depression, your child is at a higher risk, but the triggers of depression are often external and may involve a combination of factors. Some of these include:

  • Traumatic or stressful life events
  • Family issues and other environmental factors
  • Illnesses such as bipolar disorder, epilepsy, or diabetes
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Mood disorders

Conditions related to depression include seasonal affective disorder, which develops when daylight hours are reduced. The emotional highs and lows of bipolar disorder can signify depression. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder can develop into depression as well, and it is characterized by intense frequent tantrums, irritability, anger, and aggression. It is diagnosed in children over age six who are symptomatic for at least a year.

three happy little kids in ball pit smiling at camera raising hands

When to Get Your Child Help

If your child’s depressive symptoms last longer than two weeks, physical causes should be ruled out with their doctor. You should also seek a mental health evaluation for them. While no medical test can diagnose depression, an assessment of various symptoms can help identify it. Seek help if your child seems to be hiding how they feel, is threatening to hurt themselves, or starts giving personal belongings away—and, remember, depression is associated with physical and chemical changes in the brain; it does not go away on its own.

If your child is showing warning signs of depression, call Matthew J. Bruhin at 619-493-0510 for a consultation. We provide counseling services for children and adolescents. A wide range of techniques is available to address various issues at any stage of development.