It's normal to sometimes feel sad, blue or less motivated to do the things we usually enjoy. But parents and caretakers need to act when signs of depression or anxiety begin to get in the way of a child's or teen's ability to successfully take part in school, family and social activities. Fortunately, there are treatments available that work.
Depression can affect children of all ages, even preschoolers. Children and adolescents may not know how to talk about feeling down or worried, and may become withdrawn or less cooperative or irritable. Depression becomes more common as youth move through adolescence. More than half of adolescents report feeling depressed at some point. Anxiety is often part of a depressed mood. Anxiety (PDF) is feeling fearful, threatened or panicky with no clear cause.
If your child's symptoms don't go away, get worse or make it hard for them to function, talk to your pediatrician or primary care provider and ask for a referral for a mental health evaluation. If your child refuses to go to the appointment, it's a good idea for you or another parent or caregiver to go to the appointment to get support and learn ways to support your child.
There is a genetic component to depression. The condition is more common among kids with a family history of depression.
Stress plays a key role in the start of depression. It can also cause your child's symptoms to continue. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes and might include:
The changes that take place during puberty put children at greater risk of having depression and anxiety. They are likely to react more emotionally due to their stage of brain development and the fact that they don't yet have effective problem-solving skills.
Some very young children seem to be at risk of depression. For these children, it is likely a combination of a genetic risk, temperament and difficulty getting involved and enjoying activities.
Your child or teen may have some or all of these signs and symptoms of depression:
Other symptoms may include hopelessness, anxiety, aches and pains and oppositional behavior (being uncooperative and hostile).
Depression can cause:
Due to the long-term consequences of depression, it should be taken seriously and treated. Talk to your child's pediatrician immediately when you see signs of depression in your child.