Is My Child Depressed?

If your child seems sadder than usual, learn how to spot the signs of childhood depression and get the proper treatment.

sad child 

“Depression is typically thought to be a late adolescent or adult issue, but it can also be an issue for children,” says Stacey Brown, a licensed mental health counselor in Fort Myers, Florida, and a professor of Human Services at Edison State College. This can make it harder to recognize and diagnose depression in children. Although true depression is not common among young children, an estimated 2 percent of school-aged children do suffer from the condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It is important to realize that depression usually results from a combination of factors, so looking for a ‘smoking gun’ or assigning blame is not helpful and can be counterproductive in the treatment process,” says Jephtha Tausig-Edwards, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Very often, children become depressed because of stressful life events, such as a severe illness or passing of a beloved relative, peer, or pet, especially if several of these occur within a relatively short time frame.” Children can also become depressed if they do not feel successful academically or socially at school, or if there are conflicts in the home such as regular fighting between their parents or an impending divorce. “Not all children will react to these events by becoming depressed, but it’s important to look for the signs and symptoms of depression if they do develop,” Dr. Tausig-Edwards says. “Depression is treatable and in most cases, individuals experience relief within three months to one year of when their symptoms started.”

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