Children tend to express their sadness by behavioral changes, poor Recognizing the symptoms and early signs of childhood depression, seeking diagnosis and treatment and learning to live with and accept the disorder and still live for yourself are all important steps for knowledgeable parents. Childhood depression has only been recognized as a real clinical problem for about twenty-two years. Before that time, children that exhibited signs that are now recognized as depression were thought to be behavioral problems that the child would grow out of.
Psychiatrists believed that children were too emotionally and cognitively immature to suffer from true depression. Childhood was thought to be a carefree, happy time, void of worry and concerns and therefore it was thought that their problems were not serious enough to merit depression. Traumas such as divorce, incest and abuse were not clearly understood how they could effect children in the long range. Childhood depression differs in many aspects from adult depression and widely went unrecognized academic performance, withdrawal and rejection of friends and favorite activities.
Some exhibit hyperactivity, while others complain of fatigue and illness often. Many times these symptoms are thought to be just a phase’ in their children, and overlooked as signs of depression. Children of all ages from infancy through adolescence can suffer from a mood disorder. The symptoms change, with the child’s level of development. Depression in infants is often expressed as a failure to thrive, grow physically and act unresponsively. It is rarely seen in babies, but it is often a disturbance between the relationship of the infant and the caregiver.
Post partum depression, which effects 25-30% of mothers can in turn effect the mood of the infant. An unformed/broken bond, separation, illness or death can contribute. 1. Depressed mothers talk, cuddle and show less affection. Babies are sometimes rejected because they are unwanted, premature or malformed. Preschoolers are more aggressive, self isolating, restless, plagued by sleeplessness and nightmares and are less apt to follow rules or make friends when depressed. Older, school-age children may avoid school, feel misdirected guilt and express their depression by changes in mood and behavior.
One in every ten children 6-11 years-old is depressed. Family dysfunction and low self-esteem are seen to be the two major contributors of depression in this age group. Periods of sadness are a normal reaction to disappointment, failure and distress. If the depression is due to a major factor such as divorce, death or other major life stressor the period will inevitably last longer. When the sadness or irritability lasts longer than it should and causes problems in other areas such as school, home or peer relationships, it could be an indication of an adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
Aside from adjustment disorder with depressed mood, there are other depressive disorders; dysthymia, major depression, bi-polar disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dysthymia is a disorder where the child is miserable all of the time. To be diagnosed he must have a depressed mood or irritability for most days for a full year and exhibit at least two days of the following symptoms; poor appetite or overeating, in somnia or excessive sleep time, low energy or fatigue, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate, and a feeling of hopelessness.
Children with a major depression are sad or irritable most of the day for at least two weeks and have lost pleasure or interest in activities formally enjoyed, extreme weight loss/gain, lethargy/hyperactivity, feelings of unnecessary guilt, low self-esteem, indecisiveness or recurrent thoughts of death are all symptoms. Children who experience the Seasonal Disorder become tired, lethargic and unhappy beginning in October and lift between mid-February and mid-April. If this continues for three years, two of the years consecutively, and the changes are clearly seasonal the child fits pattern of depression.