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Depressive Disorder In Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

A depressive disorder

is a medical condition. It is normal for your child to feel sad, irritable, or hopeless sometimes. A depressive disorder is a condition that causes your child to have these feelings for weeks, months, or longer. Your child's feelings may interfere with his or her normal activities. You may feel that your child is being disrespectful or has a bad attitude. Do not wait for your child's feelings to go away. A depressive disorder can be treated. Treatment can help your child feel better.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has done something on purpose to hurt himself or herself.
  • Your child talks about or tries to commit suicide.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's symptoms do not improve.
  • You cannot take your child to his or her next appointment.
  • Your child has new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Common signs and symptoms of a depressive disorder include:

  • Change in appetite, weight loss, or weight gain
  • Sleeps too much or not enough
  • Wakes up earlier than usual and is not able to get back to sleep
  • Irritable or angry mood, restlessness, or anxiety
  • Lack of interest and concentration in enjoyable activities and schoolwork
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Withdrawn from family and friends
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

Your child's risk for a depressive disorder increases with the following:

  • Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, abuse, parents' 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
  • Being bullied
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Treatment for a depressive disorder

can help your child feel better.

  • Mental health therapies may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend any of the following:
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps your child create more realistic, appropriate thoughts about his or her behaviors and self. Your child may work individually with a mental health provider. CBT may also be done with a group of children that have a depressive disorder. CBT may be combined with medicines that help treat your child's depressive disorder.
    • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) helps your child connect to other people by understanding other's feelings and views. IPT also helps your child communicate better with friends and 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 or she begins to feel better. Tell your child's healthcare provider about any side effects or problems your child has with the medicine. The type or amount of medicine may need to be changed.

Help your child:

  • Talk to your child about his or her mood. Your child may ignore you or deny that there is anything wrong. Talk to your child anyway.
  • Be patient with your child. Do not become angry because of your child's irritable or grumpy mood.
  • Spend time with your child. Play a game, watch a movie, cook, or make a craft with your child. Encourage positive moods, enjoyment, and relaxation in your child by spending time with him or her.
  • Take your child to all appointments. A depressive disorder is treatable with the correct help. Your child can feel better with treatment.
  • 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 or her 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. You and your child can take a walk. Physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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