“Seeing the world through the eyes of a child” might seem to imply boundless wonder, joy, and acceptance; unfortunately, this is not always the case. Children of any age have stresses and disappointments in their lives. The particular form these might take will be different from those in an adult’s life, but that does not mean that their experiences are any less valid, nor that the emotions resulting from these are any less real.
Excessive negative experiences, especially when combined with physical health problems, feelings of insecurity and a genetic predisposition, can eventually result in children becoming clinically depressed. Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC says “Depression is different from passing sadness or temporary frustration with life’s issues. There are number of common signs for depression and they tend to be persistent.” This is not quite the same as being sad from time to time, which is only natural. If these feelings of sadness continue for a prolonged period or find expression in anti-social behavior, depression is one possible explanation. If this is indeed the case, treatment and professional help are called for: this is not a condition that tends to go away on its own.
Children and adolescents will rarely have the communication skills to express how they feel, nor the life experience to understand what’s happening to them. Therefore, feelings of frustration and helplessness tend first manifest in the way they behave around others. If a child starts behaving in ways that are out of character, such as being withdrawn, becoming prone to fits of anger or tending to disrupt group activities, depression is a possibility. Simon Rego, PsyD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry explains that “Depression symptoms are particularly troubling if someone displays more than one, or if they persist for more than two weeks.”
Additional symptoms to watch out for are significant changes in your child’s sleeping patterns or eating much less or more than usual. Depression, being a partly physical illness, also has physical manifestations, inexplicable bodily pains and fatigue being the most common.
If you’ve been noticing any of these symptoms, the first thing not to do is panic. 90% of parents will admit to sometimes being baffled or concerned by their child’s behavior, and the other 10% are liars. Only about one in forty children suffer from diagnosable depression, though those with a family history of the condition, or who come from an abusive environment are more at risk. Keep in mind that children will be children and even adults have their off days, but if these symptoms persist for a long period (two weeks or more), it might be worthwhile consulting a professional, even considering counseling online, to gain a little insight into the situation. Eventually, it might be necessary to take your child to see a child psychologist for a firm diagnosis. If he or she is indeed battling depression, seeking treatment as soon as possible can save your child years of suffering. Ben Martin, Psy.D. says “Having few or no supportive relationships can increase the risk of depression in both men and women.” That is something.