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Depression Health Center

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Childhood Depression

Are These Symptoms Present In All Kids WIth Childhood Depression?

No. Not all children have all of the symptoms of childhood depression. In fact, kids have different symptoms of childhood depression at different times and in different settings.

Some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments. But most kids with childhood depression will suffer a very noticeable change in social activities, a loss of interest in school, poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol. Or they may start smoking cigarettes, especially if they are over the age of 12.

Although it's uncommon in children under 12, some young children do attempt suicide -- and may do so impulsively when they are upset or angry. Studies show that girls are more likely to attempt suicide. But boys are more likely to actually kill themselves when they make an attempt.

Children with a family history of violence, alcohol abuse, or physical or sexual abuse are at greater risk for suicide. So are those with symptoms of childhood depression.

What Increases the Likelihood of Childhood Depression?

About one out of every 40 children in the United States suffers from childhood depression. Under the age of 10, childhood depression is significantly more common in boys. By age 16, girls have a greater incidence of depression.

Studies show that, at any point in time, 10% to 15% of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. A child has an increased chance of childhood depression if he or she has a family history of depression, particularly a parent who had depression at an early age. Once a child experiences major depression, he or she is at risk of developing another depression within the next five years.

Bipolar disorder includes symptoms of depression. Bipolar disorder is more common in adolescents than in younger children. Many experts question whether younger children can develop true bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder may also occur with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or conduct disorder (CD).

Can Childhood Depression Be Prevented?

Children with a family history of depression are at greater risk of experiencing childhood depression themselves. Children who have parents that suffer from depression tend to develop their first episode of depression earlier than children whose parents do not have depression. Children from chaotic or conflicted families are also at greater risk of childhood depression. So are kids who abuse alcohol and drugs.

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