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Childhood and Teen Depression

By Kent Amstutz, D.O.

Childhood and Teen Depression image

Depression isn’t just for adults. Childhood and teen depression affect about 5% of the general population at any given time. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACP), children under stress who experience a loss or who have attention, learning, or conduct disorders are at a higher risk for depression.

Significant life events, such as a death in the family, divorce, moving to a new town, starting a new school, or breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, can trigger depressed feelings. It is normal for adolescents to be full of mixed feelings—happy one minute and angry the next. If your child cannot seem to shake the sad, angry, negative feelings and these emotions are interfering with his ability to function socially; your child may be suffering from depression.

According to Boys Town Pediatrics and the AACP, parents should look for the following signs of depression:

  • Frequent sadness or crying
  • Feeling of hopelessness and that nothing is worth the effort
  • Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
  • Poor concentration and communication
  • Persistent boredom and social isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior

Childhood or teen depression left untreated may lead to defiant behavior, withdrawal from family and friends, failure in school, substance abuse or suicide.

Once diagnosed, depression is treatable. Your child’s physician may be able to find the root cause for the depression, such as family inheritance, side effects from certain medications or a stressful life event. Treatment generally includes both individual and family counseling and medications may be prescribed to help your child cope with the symptoms of depression.

If you are concerned that your child or teenager may be showing signs of depression, contact your physician right away.​