If you are a parent, you may notice changes in your child's mood due to hormonal changes and different emotional issues. These changes are normal in most cases, but they may also stem from a more serious mental disorder. Depression is a common disorder that affects many adults, but it can also affect children and teenagers. While surprising to hear, an estimated 1 in every 33 children may have depression. Unfortunately, you may not understand the differences between ordinary mood changes and a more involved form of depression. Using this guide, you will understand the signs of childhood depression and learn the best options for treating your child's disorder.
Childhood Depression 101
It is important to note first that depression is more than an sadness and periodic mood changes. Your child's specific case of depression may display itself differently than other children, but the following are common signs of depression in kids:
- Anger and Irritability
- Ongoing Sadness/Melancholy
- Withdrawal from Social Interactions
- Increased Sensitivity
- Decreased Appetite
- Difficulty Sleeping or Excessive Sleeping
- Outbursts or Tantrums
- Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness
- Impaired Concentration
- Talks of Death or Suicide
If your child is showing one more of these symptoms periodically, they may not have depression. However, if their symptoms have lasted 2 or more weeks, they are most likely suffering with a form of childhood depression.
A complete evaluation of your child's pediatrician and a mental health professional will be necessary to diagnose a possible mental disorder. While there are no tests that effectively determine if your child has depression, different questionnaires, psychological tests, and evaluations are used to diagnose depression and other mental disorders. If your child is found to be clinically depressed, doctors will design a course of action for treatment.
Treating Childhood Depression
The type of treatment your child receives will depend on a few factors, but psychotherapy is usually the first step in treating a mild or moderate case of depression. Cognitive behavior and interpersonal therapy are common options used in psychotherapy, but each treatment option differs.
During CBT, or Cognitive Behavior Therapy, professionals teach your child coping, communication, and social skills. In addition, your child will learn how to control their emotions and fight negative thoughts regarding the world and themselves.
Interpersonal therapy teaches your child to adapt to emotions and changes while forming and managing interpersonal relationships.
Each form of psychotherapy may require counseling with your child and group sessions with the family. This allows you and the rest of the family to understand your child's depression, its cause, and the best options to cope and treat this mental disorder.
If your child is suffering with a more severe case of pediatric depression, pharmacology may be used in addition to psychotherapy. The thought of your child taking prescription medication may be frightening, but monitored doses of antidepressants are safe and effective for your child's disorder.
If your child's negative thoughts, anger, fatigue, or mood swings seem to be increasing, consult the pediatrician and therapist immediately. Since antidepressant medications have side effects, a different dosage or completely new prescription may be necessary.
A well-balanced diet and lifestyle are essential for your child's underlying health, but they can also help ease your child's depression. Of course, discussing natural treatments with your child's doctor is smart, since severe forms of depression will require medical attention.
Decrease your child's intake of junk food and increase the amount of whole foods they eat. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are great for your child's intake of important vitamins and minerals.
Also, reduce the amount of time they spend on computers, video games, televisions, and mobile devices. Ensure they are getting enough exercise, as well. Considering exercise is proven to release endorphins, or mood-improving chemicals, through the body, daily exercise can help treat your child's depression.
Pediatric depression is a serious mental disorder that requires immediate care, so understanding this condition is imperative. With this guide and the help of your child's doctor, you will be able to understand and treat their depression. For more information, consult a professional, like those at Entira Family Clinics.