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Depression Health Center

Childhood Depression

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Are you worried that your child may be depressed? Most kids have days when they feel sad, lonely, or depressed. But, if your child seems persistently sad or hopeless and it is affecting relationships, he or she may suffer from childhood depression, a serious mental health condition that needs medical assessment and treatment.

At any given time, one out of every five young people is dealing with mental health problems. The good news is that health care professionals can accurately diagnose, treat, and manage mental health problems -- including childhood depression -- with psychotherapy and medication

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, to children and teens. Learn more.

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How Is Childhood Depression Different From the Blues?

Childhood depression is different from the everyday "blues" that most kids get as they develop. The fact that a child feels sad, lonely, or irritable does not mean he or she has childhood depression.

Childhood depression is persistent sadness. When it occurs, the child feels alone, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When this type of sadness is unending, it disrupts every part of the child's life. It interferes with the child's daily activities, schoolwork, and peer relationships. It can also affect the life of each family member.

Childhood depression can be assessed, diagnosed, and effectively treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. Left untreated, childhood depression is a serious depressive disorder that can lead to suicide.

What Causes Childhood Depression?

The causes of childhood depression are unknown. It could be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability, and biochemical disturbance. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Depression?

The symptoms of childhood depression may vary. It depends on the child and his or her particular mood disorder. Many times, childhood depression goes undiagnosed and untreated. That's because it's passed off as normal emotional and psychological change that occurs during growth. 

The signs and symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • Changes in appetite -- either increased appetite or decreased
  • Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Impaired thinking or concentration
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Irritability or anger
  • Physical complaints (such as stomachaches or headaches) that do not respond to treatment
  • Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school or during extracurricular activities, or when involved with hobbies or other interests
  • Social withdrawal
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Vocal outbursts or crying
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