As a parent, your intuition may be telling you that your child’s “blues” aren’t normal. You might be wondering, “Is my child depressed?”
Childhood depression can manifest itself when children are under a great deal of stress. Sometimes the stress can be acute, whereas other times it may be more chronic in nature. Children coping with separation or divorce between their parents, peer ridicule or rejection, conflict within family relationships, the loss of a loved one, or physical illness are often at greater risk for developing depression. Learning difficulties, academic pressures or even living in an unsafe neighborhood can cause depressive symptoms to arise as well.
Children struggling with depression may have varying presentations. Some children will be sad or anxious, whereas others may act more irritable than usual and described as “moody” or “on edge.” Behavioral outbursts or temper tantrums may occur when things do not go as planned.
Academic and social performance can also be disrupted. Children may daydream more often, have difficulty focusing in class, or may be more forgetful than usual. They may lose interest in extracurricular activities that were once very enjoyable to them. Some kids may withdrawal themselves socially due to feeling like they just cannot “connect” anymore. Small disappointments may present bigger than expected challenges. For some kids, feelings of hopelessness and thoughts like “things will never get better” can preoccupy their minds. In certain instances, these negative thoughts and feelings can lead to suicidal ideation or even an intent or plan to harm oneself.
There are evidence-based treatments available for children coping with depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Kids will learn ways to challenge their negative belief systems, identify thinking mistakes (e.g., catastrophic or all or none thinking), utilize positive self-talk, practice relaxation strategies, and strengthen self-confidence to combat depression. Our psychologists and counselors will work collaboratively with other professionals, including your child’s pediatrician, to ensure a comprehensive and wholistic team approach.