Happy September! Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com. School bells are ringing for our family and we are getting used to the new routine of the school year. Although to be honest, I am missing the laid back, wear your swimsuit all day, never need socks, days of summer. I love not having to wash socks in the summer because everyone is always in flip flops or barefoot. Today I want to talk to you about how to recognize depression in children.
Last week I was at school waiting to pick up our kids, and talking to a friend of mine who was there for the same purpose. As we were talking about our children adjusting, she mentioned that her 9 year old daughter had recently been diagnosed with depression. She mentioned that in hindsight, the symptoms had been there for about two years, but because she didn’t know what to look for, she had missed them. She just assumed she had a really moody daughter. So today, I want to share with you the symptoms of depression, so we all know what to look for and can help our children if they need it.
It wasn’t until about 20-25 years ago that doctors acknowledged that kids could suffer from depression.
Diagnosing a child can be really tricky because the symptoms of depression mimic those of ADHD, and because childhood is filled with so many changing moods and growing stages, it is hard to know if it is growing pains, or depression.
It is very easy to mistake depressed behavior for normal developmental problems. Childhood is complicated and children are developing and changing their personalities all the time. Adolescents can causes changes that may be normal, but are difficult for parents to know how to deal with, and even professionals can have a hard time identifying when the line is crossed from normal development and depression.
So as parents, caregivers, teachers, and grandparents, what should we be looking for?
What are the symptoms we should be looking for in our children?
1. Persistent sad or empty mood, or irritable moods. These could be self reported or seen by others.
2. Zero interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day, especially their favorite activities. These could be self reported or seen by others.
3. Major changes in appetite and/or body weight.
4. Trouble sleeping OR oversleeping
5. Physical slowing observed by others.
8. Loss of energy.
9. Feeling worthless or guilty, when there is no need.
10. Difficulty thinking or concentrating
12. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Nearly all research suggests that although the above symptoms will vary, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, when there is no need, MUST BE PRESENT.
So how can we know this is different than a bad day or growing pains?
Must last for an extended period of time.
Over 3 weeks. Day in and day out.
Gets in the way of life. Of school and play.
Now, if we think our child is depressed, what should we do?
First, understand that it is a disease.
When we acknowledge that it is a disease, we will stop blaming our child, stop blaming ourselves, and it will help us stop assuming they are doing it on purpose. Acknowledging that it is a disease will also keep us from telling them to “snap out of it.” We would never tell someone with cancer that it was “their fault” or to “snap out of it.”
Second, Don’t overreact!
Overreacting is not going to help your child, you, or your family. Realize that over 80% of children who are diagnosed as depressed, are able to heal. But, even with the perfect therapist, if your child doesn’t have supportive, level headed parents, they can’t get better.
Third, Be their advocate.
We have to believe our children when they tell us they are struggling, and be on their side. We need to speak up when they don’t have a voice or know what to say. Especially at the beginning of the healing process.
Fourth, Get them help.
Seek out a professional who specializes in childhood depression and get help. Work together with the therapist to do what is best for your child.Although we all hope our children never have to deal with depression, it is real, and we should all know what to look for.
Do any of you have a child who is suffering, or has suffered from depression? What has been your experience?