How to tell if your child is suffering from depression

Depression affects the quality of life, and if left untreated could leave a child feeling sad and reserved from the world and this could impact the development of personality. Image: Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

Depression does not discriminate; it does not choose age, race or gender. It can affect anyone at any time in their life.

Unfortunately, children are falling victim to this dreaded mental disorder more frequently than we realise, and often parents don’t realise the signs until it’s much too late.

Depression in youngsters often lead to drug and alcohol abuse and sometimes, suicide. It can be caused by numerous factors ranging from physical health, life events, family history and even biochemical disturbances.

Yes teenagers have mood swings, tantrums and all those phases they go through. But don’t mistake depression for a silly adolescent mood swing; it will not pass, and without the proper treatment your child will never be able to lead a normal life.

According to local psychologist, Paul Bushell, it is important for parents to remember children have all the same emotions as adults, and many children do suffer from childhood depression.

“What makes childhood depression easy to miss is that children often can’t speak about emotions in the same way as adults. Most children won’t have the words to describe what they are feeling as depression,” he said.

He goes on to say: “Children often describe depression using physical symptoms. For example, when sad or anxious children often report headaches or stomach aches. Although parents should always check the physical pain, repeated headaches or stomach aches can be an indication of feeling sad or depressed”

However, he added that parents could also look out for signs such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, as well as being withdrawn, aggression, sad or deflated responses, and talk about dark themes such a death.

“Childhood depression can be treated in the same way as adult depression, where psychotherapy and medication may be useful. Play therapy is a very effective means of treating childhood depression,” said Mr Bushell.

He elaborated by saying depression affected the quality of life, and if left untreated, could leave a child feeling sad and reserved from the world and this could impact the development of personality.

“If you feel your child might be depressed, it is important to seek treatment from a psychologist and /or psychiatrist. Do not leave this untreated!” he concluded.

Below is a list of warning signs to pay attention to if you suspect your child might be suffering from depression.

1. Irritability or aggressive behavior.
2. Continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
3. Socially withdrawn.
4. Increased sensitivity to rejection, such as self mutilation.
5. Change in appetite: either increased or decreased eating habits.
6. Change in sleep pattern: either excessive sleeping or sleeplessness.
7. Vocal outbursts and crying.
8. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
9. Difficulty concentrating.
10. Thoughts and comments of death and/or suicide.

  AUTHOR
Zianne Leibrandt

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