It is normal for your growing child to be moody or somewhat irritable as he or she moves through adolescence. But symptoms of prolonged sadness or irritability and a loss of pleasure in activities the child enjoyed before can point to depression. Depression is not a normal part of growing up. Deciding whether your child's behavior is normal or a symptom of depression can be difficult.
Your child may need to be evaluated for depression if he or she:
- Is continuously sad or irritable, and not just with parents, but even with friends.
- Is sad or irritable without a known trigger (no recent experience, such as being rejected by peers, caused the mood change).
- Shows no pleasure with friendships or activities enjoyed in the past, such as sports or hobbies.
- Doesn't ask for added privileges, such as driving the car or going out with friends on a school night.
- Displays unprovoked or unexplained anger or anxiety, especially in a preadolescent.
- Complains of symptoms such as headache or stomach pain that have no physical cause.
- Breaks down crying often and doesn't know why.
- Has a sudden, noticeable decrease in school performance.
Most children will experience some unexplained sadness or boredom now and then. Asking your child a few questions about how he or she is feeling overall may help identify mild or moderate depression, which is more difficult to recognize than symptoms of severe depression. Some examples of questions to ask your child to help you decide if your child needs to see a health professional for possible depression might include:
- Do you feel angry most of the time?
- Do you feel sad every day?
- Do you laugh with your friends?
- Do you feel happy when you are doing things you enjoy, like a favorite hobby or a sport?
- Do you feel like you get upset easily and you don't know why?
- Do you stay sad or mad for a long time?
While questions such as these will not diagnose depression, they can open the doors of communication with your child and help you decide whether your child needs to be further assessed by a health professional.