Depression In Children: 18 Identifying Signs of Childhood Depression

Depression In Children

B. Depressive symptoms in adolescents and teens 

1. Hopelessness, sadness or irritable mood or being cranky & angry

2. Low self-esteem and poor sense of self-worth

3. Feelings of worthlessness 

4. Self-criticism, guilt & negative self-talk

5. Irritability, hostility, belligerent, non-compliance or defying authority figures

6. Unusual behavior or acting out of character, like trying to run away from home

7. Difficulty with social interactions or poor communication

8. Changes in eating and sleeping habits

9. Pessimism and negative outlook towards life

10. Constantly changing friends or issues with peers

11. Avoidance of activities enjoyed previously 

12. Relationship issues, social isolation and withdrawal, like avoidance of family members and loved ones

13. Persistent boredom or sulking

14. Poor performance in school

15. Highly sensitivity to failure or rejection 

16. Physical illnesses like unexplained aches, fatigue or exhaustion

17. Impulsive and reckless behavior, such as substance use, risky sexual behavior, theft, destruction of property, violations of rules etc

18. Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

Apart from these, some other common signs of depression in children, adolescents and teens may include the following –

Emptiness, numbness or inability to express emotions

Lack of confidence

Low motivation

Self-injury or self-destructive behavior, such as cutting

Psychomotor retardation

Giving away possessions

Increasing interest in death

Repeated arguments with siblings & friends

Vocal outbursts 

Loss of interest in hobbies or extracurricular activities

Being highly dependent or overly clingy in relationships with caregivers

High levels of stress and anxiety

Inability to function normally in daily life

Separation issues 

Being short-tempered 

Feeling misunderstood

Difficulty making decisions

Obsession with past failures leading to self-blame

Lack of focus on appearance or personal hygiene

Heightened sensitivity to criticism

Regression or acting younger than their age

Read also: 4 Common Symptoms Of Depression In Children

Although some of these signs may be observed in children who are not depressed, if you can identify most of these signs or a combination of these symptoms in your child consistently for a period of at least two weeks, then it may indicate the onset of childhood depression.

However, as a depressed child may not necessarily appear sad, parents, caregivers and teachers may misidentify their symptoms as bad behavior.

However, talking to them in a caring manner can encourage the child to express their true feelings of sadness. You should also understand that the symptoms may vary greatly from one child to another as every sufferer experiences the mood disorder differently.

Depression In Children: 18 Identifying Signs of Childhood Depression
Depression In Children: 18 Identifying Signs of Childhood Depression

Is your child suicidal?

Suicide is a real and serious risk of depression and a public health problem in the pediatric population. Unfortunately, realizing that your child may be suicidal can be the worst nightmare for any parent.

According to a 2010 study, several parents fail to notice the red flags of depressive disorders in their children even when the signs are obvious. The study adds “These parents may not realize the magnitude of depression until their child’s adaptive behavior at home and school has seriously deteriorated, until the child has expressed his desire in the form of suicidal or other self destructive behaviors, or until the child has fallen victim of a devastating drug abuse problem.”

Further research shows that depression and dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) are among the primary reasons for suicide in elementary school-aged children. Children who commit suicide usually tend to be male, die through hanging, suffocation or strangulation in their own homes. Moreover, relationship issues with family members, loved ones and friends tends to be the most common trigger.

Another 2013 study also found that unhealthy relationships with caregivers or parents and family discord are closely related to “an increased suicide risk in depressed adolescents. 

Although committing suicide is less common among young individuals, depressed children can think about and attempt suicide. If you can notice the following red flags in your child, then talk to them and seek medical help immediately –

Increased interest in topics related to death

Talking about death & dying frequently

Giving away their prized possessions

Reckless or risk-taking behavior 

Engaging in self-injury or self-destructive behavior

Social withdrawal and isolation

Talking about being unhappy, not wanting to live or suicide

Read also: Why Would A Young Child Contemplate Suicide?

What you can do

If the symptoms are mild, then certain lifestyle changes can help substantially to deal with the mental condition. However, if the disorder is severe, then seeing a doctor may be necessary. Regardless, there are certain and healthy proactive steps that you can take to help your child cope with and overcome childhood depression. Some of the most beneficial coping strategies are mentioned below –

1. Consult a doctor

If you are worried about your child being depressed, then the first and most important thing you should do is consult a medical professional. Talk to your pediatrician or a primary care physician, suggests author Dr. Perri Klass.

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts