Table of contents:
- Symptoms that may indicate depression
- Possible causes
- How to diagnose childhood depression
- How the treatment is done
Child depression is a psychological disorder characterized by persistent sadness and lack of interest in activities that were previously considered fun for children. Some signs and symptoms that may indicate depression during childhood include unwillingness to play, bed wetting, frequent complaints of tiredness, headache or bellyache, and learning difficulties.
These symptoms can go unnoticed or be confused with tantrums or shyness, but if these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, it is advisable to go to the pediatrician or child psychiatrist to assess the psychological he alth status and verify the need to start treatment.
In most cases, treatment includes psychotherapy sessions and the use of antidepressant medication, but the support of parents and teachers is essential to help the child get out of depression, as this disorder can hinder the child's development.
Symptoms that may indicate depression
The symptoms of childhood depression vary with the age of the child and its diagnosis is never easy, requiring a detailed evaluation by a child psychiatrist. However, some signs that can alert parents include:
- Sad face, with dull eyes and not smiling and a droopy and fragile body, as if he was always tired and staring into space;
- Unwillingness to play neither alone nor with other children;
- Much sleepy, constant tiredness and no energy for anything;
- tantrums and irritability for no apparent reason, looking like a child with temper, bad temper and bad posture;
- Easy and exaggerated crying, due to exaggerated sensitivity;
- Lack of appetite which can lead to weight loss, but in some cases it can also lead to a huge craving for sweets;
- Difficulty sleeping and many nightmares;
- Fear and difficulty separating from mother or father;
- Feelings of inferiority especially towards friends from daycare or school;
- Poor performance at school, may have red grades and lack of attention;
- Urinary or fecal incontinence, after having already acquired the ability to not wear a diaper.
Although these signs of depression are common in children, they can be more specific depending on the age of each child.
6 months to 2 years
The main symptoms of depression in early childhood, which occurs up to the age of 2 years, are refusal to eat, low weight, small stature and language delay and sleep disorders.
2 to 6 years
In preschool age, which happens between 2 and 6 years old, children with depression, in most cases, have constant tantrums, a lot of tiredness, little desire to play, lack of energy, pee in the bed and pass faeces involuntarily.
Furthermore, they may also find it very difficult to separate from their mother or father, avoid talking to or socializing with other children and remain very isolated. There may also be intense crying spells and have nightmares and a lot of difficulty falling asleep.
6 to 12 years
In school age, which occurs between 6 and 12 years old, depression manifests itself through the same symptoms mentioned above, in addition to having difficulty learning, poor concentration, red grades, isolation, exaggerated sensitivity and irritability, apathy, lack of patience, headache and stomachache, and weight changes.
In addition, the feeling of inferiority is frequent, in which the child feels that he is the other children and constantly says phrases such as "nobody likes me" or "I don't know how to do anything".
In adolescence, which occurs from the age of 12, symptoms of depression can be different, such as problems with memory or concentration and a feeling of worthlessness, for example. Check out other symptoms of depression in teenagers.
In most cases, childhood depression occurs due to traumatic situations such as constant arguments between family members, parents' divorce, changing schools, lack of contact between the child and the parents, or the child's death.
In addition, abuse, such as rape or daily living with an alcoholic or drug-dependent parent, can also contribute to developing depression.
How to diagnose childhood depression
The diagnosis is usually made through tests carried out by the doctor and analysis of drawings, as the child in most cases cannot report that he is sad and depressed and, therefore, parents must be very attentive to all symptoms and tell the doctor to facilitate the diagnosis.
However, the diagnosis of this disease is not easy, especially because it can be confused with personality changes such as shyness, irritability, bad mood or aggressiveness and, in some cases, parents may even consider normal behaviors for the child. age.
In this way, if a significant change in the child's behavior is identified, such as constantly crying, being very irritated or losing weight for no apparent reason, the pediatrician should be consulted so that the hypothesis of experiencing a psychological alteration.
How the treatment is done
To cure childhood depression, it is necessary to have follow-up by a pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, family members and teachers, and the treatment must last at least 6 months to avoid relapses.
Usually, until the age of 9, treatment is only done with psychotherapy sessions with a child psychologist, through cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps the child to deal better with problems and allows him to create better habits. However, after this age or when the disease cannot be cured with psychotherapy alone, it is necessary to use antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, sertraline or paroxetine, for example, indicated by the psychiatrist.In addition, your doctor may recommend other medications such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or stimulants.
Usually, the use of antidepressants only begins to take effect weeks after starting treatment, and even if the child no longer has symptoms, he/she should continue using the medication to avoid chronic depression. Among the side effects that may arise are headache, nausea, abdominal pain, dry mouth, nausea, constipation or diarrhea and blurred vision, and it is important that the doctor is notified as soon as adverse effects occur, so that it is possible to assess the possibility to change the dose or type of medication.
To help with recovery, parents and teachers should collaborate in treatment by constantly praising the child, encouraging the child to play with other children, play sports and participate in outdoor activities. Learn more about treating childhood depression.
How to deal with a depressed child
Living with a child with depression is not easy, but parents, family members and teachers must help the child to overcome the illness so that he/she feels supported and that he/she is not alone. So you should:
- Respect the child's feelings, showing that you understand them;
- Encourage the child to develop activities they enjoy without causing pressure;
- Constantly praising the child of all small acts and not correcting the child abruptly in front of other children;
- Give a lot of attention to the child, remembering that he can count on the support of parents, family members and teachers;
- Take the child to play with other children to increase interaction;
- Do not let the child play alone, or stay in the room alone watching television or playing video games;
- Encouraging eating every 3 hours to stay nourished;
- Keep the room comfortable to help your child fall asleep and sleep well.
These strategies will help the child to gain confidence, avoiding isolation and improving their self-esteem, helping the child to be able to cure depression.