Is depression in children common?
Depression in children occurs in 1-2% of children before they reach puberty, including preschoolers, even though it is much less common. This usually only occurs when there is a strong family history of depression. After puberty, the rate for depression increases to about 3-8% and is often a higher rate in girls than boys. One in five teens has experienced a depressive disorder by the time they reach adulthood.
What can depression look like in children?
Depressive symptoms such as not having fun, difficulty concentrating, guilt, problems sleeping, and appetite are usually similar in children and adolescents. In pre-pubertal children, depression will often show in families with high adversity, and they will often have issues with conduct disorder. Children who suffer from depression have problems later in adulthood with criminality, substance abuse, and suicide. Depression in adolescence looks similar to adulthood, which in fact, can resurface sometime in their adult life. Adolescence who struggle with depression might often engage in risky behaviors, alcohol and drug use, non-suicidal self-harm, suicidal behavior, and having unprotected sex. According to Psychology Today, in the brain of depressed children and adolescents, researchers have found that they show less effective cognitive control of their emotions, higher emotional reactivity in response to emotional stimuli (like scary faces), and diminished response to rewarding situations.
Symptoms children could exhibit if they are suffering from depression are as follows:
- Sleep Disturbance (Difficulty falling or staying asleep)
- Changes in eating habits
- Depressed or Irritable Mood
- Refusing to go to school
- Changes in grades or behavior at school
- Frequent anger outbursts
- Mood Swings
- Feeling Worthless
- Social Isolation
- Feeling Restless
- Loss of Energy
- Psychosomatic complaints like frequent headaches or stomachaches or generally not feeling well
- Low Self-Esteem
- Thoughts of Suicide or Suicide Plans
If untreated, they are more at risk for developing chronic depression later in life, if not sooner. The two most common forms of treatments are medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is essential in treating children who suffer from depression, and there are two commonly used forms of psychotherapy:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps to identify and problem-solve around behaviors. This method is usually preferred for children who are facing a number of behavioral problems as well as depression but could not be as effective if they have a parent with depression or a history of child abuse.
Interpersonal Therapy looks at the child in the context of their social relationships. This method is used to help children with a lot of parent discord or other interpersonal problems.
It is essential to continue treatment even after the child is well, or there is a risk of relapse. Psychology Today says that usually, therapists will suggest that treatment should continue for around 6-12 months to prevent a recurrence of depression.
Original Post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-through-research/201602/depression-in-children
List of common symptoms shown in children with depression: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2018-04-25/6-things-to-know-about-childhood-depression