Child depression and teen depression are serious mental health problems that cause an ongoing loss of interest in activities as well as feelings of sadness. It affects how a child or teenager thinks, feels and behaves, and it can cause emotional, functional and physical problems. If a child appears to be sad, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has significant depression. If the sadness is persistent, or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may indicate that he or she has a depressive illness. Child depression and adolescent depression are real concerns — not just something worried parents or anxious teens made up. Depression in youth can manifest differently than adult depression.
While symptoms for child depression or teen depression are the same as they are for adults, their presentation may vary somewhat in younger children. For example, a child with depression may refuse to go to school, pretend to be sick, cling to a parent, or even worry that one or both of their parents (or another close family member or friend) may die.
Older children may sulk, be irritable or negative, and even get into trouble at school. They also may feel misunderstood, These signs may be viewed as normal behavior typical of children as they develop, and therefore it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.
As many as 3% of children and 8% of adolescents in the United States experience depression. Depression is significantly more common in boys under age 10. But by age 16, girls have a greater incidence of depression.
Depression in adolescence comes at a time of great personal change — issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations and changing bodies can create many ups and downs for teens. Depression in adolescence frequently co–occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, eating disorders or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.
According to scientific research, depression left untreated and undiagnosed in childhood is more likely to recur and continue into adulthood. The more severe an episode of depression in childhood, the more important it is that child or teen gets appropriate and timely mental health treatment with a child psychologist or other child-trained therapist.
The presence of childhood depression also tends to be a predictor of more severe illnesses in adulthood.
Comprehensive treatment for depression in children and adolescents can include both individual and family therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are types of individual therapy effective in treating depression. Antidepressant medication is another form of treatment, used indpendently or in conjunction with therapy. Parents are advised to consult with their physician for a referral to a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat depression in children and teens.
Researchers are continuing to develop and test ways to prevent suicide in children and adolescents, including early diagnosis and treatment, and a better understanding of suicidal thinking.
WebMD. (2018.) Childhood Depression. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/childhood-depression#1 on May 31, 2018.
Diagnosis and Treatment