Depression in Children and Teens - Topic Overview
Also, the symptoms may be different depending on how old the child is.
- Both very young children and grade-school children may lack energy and
become withdrawn. They may show little emotion, seem to feel hopeless, and have
trouble sleeping. Often they will lose interest in friends and activities they liked before. They may complain of headaches or stomachaches. A child may be more anxious or clingy with caregivers.
- Teens may sleep a lot or
move or speak more slowly than usual. Some teens and children with severe depression may see or hear
things that aren't there (hallucinate) or have false beliefs
Depression can range from mild to severe. A child who
feels a little "down" most of the time for a year or more may have a milder,
ongoing form of depression called
dysthymia (say "dis-THY-mee-uh"). In its most severe
form, depression can cause a child to lose hope and want to die.
Whether depression is mild or severe, there are treatments that can help.
Just what causes
depression is not well understood. But it is linked to a problem with activity levels in certain parts of the brain as well as an imbalance of
brain chemicals that affect mood. Things that may
cause these problems include:
- Stressful events, such as changing schools,
going through a divorce, or losing a close family member or friend.
medicines, such as
narcotics for pain relief.
history. In some children, depression seems to be inherited.
depression, a doctor may do a physical exam and ask questions about your child's
past health. You and your child may be asked to fill out a form about your child's symptoms.
The doctor may ask your child questions to learn more about how he or she
thinks, acts, and feels.
Some diseases can cause symptoms that
look like depression. So the child may have tests to help rule out physical
problems, such as a
low thyroid level or
It is common for children with
depression to have other problems too, such as
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or an
eating disorder. The doctor may ask questions about
these problems to help your child get the right diagnosis and treatment.