At first, depression in a
child or teen may appear as irritability, sadness, or sudden, unexplained
crying. He or she may lose interest in activities enjoyed in the past or may
feel unloved and hopeless. He or she may have problems in school and become
withdrawn or defiant.
An episode of depression lasts an average of 8 months.1 Even with successful treatment, as many as 40 out of 100 children
with depression will have another episode within a few years.2
Less than half of children and teens with depression receive treatment.3 This may be partly due to the old belief that young people don't get depression.
Also, teens often do not seek help for depression. They may think feeling bad is normal, or they may blame something else (or themselves) for their symptoms. Or they may not know where to go for help. Tell your child to ask for help if he or she feels bad. And let your child know who to go to for help with depression or other problems.
Drugs and alcohol
Some teens will
alcohol or drug use problems along with
depression. When this happens, depression is harder to treat, and it can take longer for treatment to work. Drug or alcohol use also increases the risk of suicide.
Early diagnosis and treatment of
depression and good communication with your child can help prevent substance
abuse. For more information about substance abuse in young people, see the
Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
Often a child who is depressed will have
other disorders along with depression, such as an
anxiety disorder, a behavior disorder like
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an
eating disorder, or a learning disorder.
problems may occur before a young person becomes depressed. Some children with
depression develop serious behavior problems (conduct disorder), often after becoming depressed. If your child has one of
these disorders, it may require treatment along with depression.
and teens with depression are also at a higher risk for problems
- Poor school or job
- Problems in relationships with peers and family
- Early pregnancy.
- Physical illness.
Treatment in the hospital
For severe depression, your child may need to be
hospitalized, especially if he or she is out of touch with reality (psychotic) or is having thoughts of suicide.
During treatment for depression, make sure that your child
takes medicines and attends counseling appointments as directed, even if he or
she feels better. A common cause of
relapse is stopping treatment too soon.
Suicide and depression
It's very important to recognize the warning signs of suicide in your child or teen. Carefully watch for signs of suicidal behavior
if your child has recently:
- Broken up with a girlfriend or
- Had disciplinary troubles in school or with the
- Had problems with poor grades or had trouble
- Had family problems.
- Been the victim of repeated bullying.
- Had substance abuse
- Started, stopped, or changed doses of an antidepressant
It is extremely important that you take all threats of suicide seriously and seek immediate treatment for your child or teenager. If you are a child or teen and have these feelings, talk with your parents, an adult friend, or your doctor right away to get some help. If your child is suicidal, call911or other emergency services immediately.