Depression in childhood: A very frequent problem.
Depression in childhood is a much more frequent disorder than we can suppose.
From the adult point of view, childhood and adolescence tend to be considered the most satisfying stages of life, devoid of the worries and problems that arise when we mature. From this point of view, it would be unthinkable to consider depression in children and adolescents. However, the reality presents a different vision.
Depression in childhood and adolescence is a disorder that often goes unnoticed by parents. This makes them not seek medical or psychological help.
Approximately, between four and five percent of Spanish adolescents will present a depressive episode.
Minors may show feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or irritability. Although most of them recover quickly, there are others, on the other hand, in which these feelings persist and begin to interfere with aspects of their daily life.
It is in these cases where parents, educators and people related to the minor play a fundamental role.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood and feeling disorder that can present itself differently in children and adolescents than it does in adults.
It is more common in girls and especially in adolescence , where young people are subjected to continuous changes and the pressure is so strong that it can lead to sudden changes in their mood, or to feel irritable, sensitive and vulnerable.
How to recognize depression in your child.
- You feel sad or cry often.
- Loses interest in activities that you used to like.
- It tends to isolate itself.
- You feel tired and have a loss of energy.
- You lose your appetite and have difficulty sleeping or, conversely, eating or sleeping excessively.
- Has a low self-concept.
- He loses concentration, has difficulty studying, and his grades tend to drop.
- He is in frequent pain.
- He has a negative glimpse of his future.
- Do not play.
- You may express or feel like dying as a way to end what is worrying you.
Characteristics of depression in childhood according to age.
The manifestation of symptoms that can suggest depression in childhood varies in relation to the age and development of the child.
Under 24 months.
From 2 to 5 years.
They may present, in addition to the above symptoms, loss of interest in their colleagues or friends, behaviors to attract attention and physical complaints.
From 6 to 12 years old.
School problems, continuous physical complaints, persistent sadness, low self-esteem, guilt and hostility towards themselves or towards others stand out.
The most remarkable thing at this stage is that when they are depressed, they are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior, or to be more restless and irritable .
Differences with adult depression.
In childhood and adolescence depression, irritability predominates more than sadness.
They tend to present somatic complaints more frequently.
The decrease in school performance is frequent .
Parents often refer to changes in their external appearance, they see them with a “bad face”, “they have dark circles”, “sad look”.
They frequently lose interest in the game and in relating to their friends.
In adolescents, character changes may appear: irritability, they become disobedient and rebellious. They present behavioral changes: alcohol or drug use .
Factors that favor depression in childhood.
There are a number of factors that, although they do not present the same degree of risk in all minors, may be important because they have an impact on some of them. The risk of depression in childhood increases as the environment is more negative and the child more vulnerable.
The loss of a loved one, such as parents, relatives, pets, … can be a trauma for your child.
A family history of depression, either in one of the parents or in one of the immediate family members.
The lack of affective contact, favors that emotions or feelings are not expressed by the child.
Inadequate levels of demand, either because expectations are very high at a social, academic or family level, or because of the lack of them.
Any change in the child’s life, changes of address, school, the arrival of a new brother …
The lack of friends at school or the child’s difficulty in starting new relationships.
How can you help your child …
When you don’t find anything positive in him.
Accentuate your positive traits.
Praise him frequently, but sincerely.
Avoid making negative generalizations about him, for example, if he says “I don’t know how to do anything” it changes to “There are things I don’t know how to do and for which I may need help”.
When you feel guilty.
Teach him to differentiate between events that he can control and those that are out of his reach. It is not the same as failing an exam for not studying, that one of your friends falls ill. The first is within your reach and the second is not.
When at home there is no stability.
Maintain a routine in your child’s usual hours. Talk to him in advance about the changes that are going to take place in his environment: changes of school, address …
When he misbehaves.
Reject their behavior calmly but firmly, being consistent in your response to their inappropriate behavior.
Teach him to express his feelings in the correct way and context.
Reinforce and pay attention to the appropriate behaviors of your child.
When you have trouble concentrating.
Encourage your child’s participation in family life: go shopping, help out at home, take care of other siblings …
Encourage him to socialize with his peers and to participate in games and activities.
When he talks about death.
From the time they are young, children begin to think and wonder what death is and what happens afterwards. The answer to these questions is often a difficult time for parents.
It is important that, when faced with these questions, you show yourself calm and natural. Most often, your child is simply curious to know what death is, especially if you have recently lost a loved one. In this case, you can take the opportunity to give him a simple explanation, according to his age and your moral beliefs.
It is normal that this subject distresses you, but it is not alarming. It is logical for children to talk and wonder about death. Only if it does it repeatedly and is accompanied by a depressed mood, it would be good to go with your child to a specialist.
Depression can manifest itself in children and adolescents, since, at these ages, they also have problems and become sad.
If your child begins to suffer from any symptoms, talk calmly about the feelings he is experiencing, give him the opportunity to express himself and seek among all the solution to the problems that he poses to you.
If it persists, do not panic and go to a professional so they can guide you on how to help your child.
On this page you can find resources to prevent depression .
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.