Depression In Children

What is depression?

Depression is a medical condition that causes your child to feel sad, hopeless, or irritable. Depression may cause your child to lose interest in things he used to enjoy. He may also be angry, do poorly in school, isolate himself, or complain about pain. These feelings can interfere with your child's daily life.

What causes or increases the risk for depression?

Depression may be caused by changes in the brain chemicals that affect your child's mood. Your child's risk of depression may be higher if he has any of the following:

  • Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, abuse, parental divorce, or loss of a friendship

  • Parents, siblings, or other family members with a history of depression

  • An anxiety disorder, ADHD, or a learning disability

  • Low self-esteem or poor relationships with others

  • A medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or migraine headaches

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

  • Appetite changes, or weight gain or loss

  • Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Feeling restless, irritable, or withdrawn

  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, discouraged, or guilty

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering things, doing daily tasks, or making decisions

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

How is depression diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and how long he has had them. He will also ask if there are any family members with depression. He will ask about your child's health and any medicines he takes. He may ask how your child is doing in school. Tell him about your child's relationships with teachers and friends, and about any stressful events in his life.

How is depression treated?

  • Therapy may be used to treat your child's depression. A therapist will help your child learn to cope with his thoughts and feelings. This can be done alone or in a group. It may also be done with family members.

  • Antidepressant medicine may be given to improve or balance your child's mood. Your child may need to take this medicine for several weeks before he begins to feel better. Tell his healthcare provider about any problems your child has with his medicine. Sometimes the kind or amount of medicine may have to be changed. Some medicines used to treat depression may increase the risk of suicide in some children.

How can I help my child?

  • Watch your child carefully for any behavior changes. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if you have concerns or questions about your child's behavior. Children with depression have an increased risk of suicide.

  • Take your child to his appointments as directed. If your child cannot come to an appointment, schedule another one as soon as possible.

  • Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits. Make sure your child eats a variety of healthy foods. Stick to a sleep schedule so he gets enough sleep. Your child may sleep better if his room is quiet and dark.

  • Make sure your child gets 1 hour of physical activity every day. Encourage your child to play sports or be active every day. Physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child says he wants to commit suicide.

  • Your child's mood gets worse.

  • Your child has new symptoms, such as headaches or nausea, after starting antidepressants.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child has done something on purpose to hurt himself, or he tries to commit suicide.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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