November 30, 2015
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Depression in Children (cont.)

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What are the symptoms and warning signs of depression in children?

Clinical depression, also called major depression, is more than sadness that lasts for a day or two before feeling better. In true depressive illnesses, the symptoms last weeks, months, or sometimes years if no treatment is received. Depression often results in the sufferer being unable to perform daily activities, such as getting out of bed or getting dressed, performing well at school, or playing with peers. General symptoms of major depression, regardless of age, include having a depressed or irritable mood for at least two weeks and have at least five of the following clinical signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or blue and/or irritable
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite, with or without significant weight loss, failing to gain weight appropriately or gaining excessive weight
  • Change in sleep pattern: inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Physical agitation or retardation (i.e., restlessness or feeling slowed down)
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Children with depression may also experience the classic symptoms but may exhibit other symptoms as well, including

  • poor school performance,
  • persistent boredom,
  • quickness to anger,
  • frequent complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches,
  • more risk-taking behaviors and/or showing less concern for their own safety.

Examples of risk-taking behaviors in children include unsafe play, like climbing excessively high or running in the street.

Parents of children with depression often report noticing the following behavior changes in the child:

  • Crying more often or more easily
  • More irritable mood than usual or compared to others their age and gender
  • Eating habits, sleeping habits, or weight change significantly up or down, or the child fails to gain weight appropriately for their age
  • Unexplained physical complaints (for examples, headaches or abdominal pain)
  • Spending more time alone, away from friends and family
  • Becoming more "clingy" and more dependent on certain relationships. This is less common than social withdrawal.
  • Overly pessimistic or exhibits excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness
  • Expressing thoughts about hurting him or herself or exhibiting reckless or other harmful behavior
  • Young kids may act younger than their age or than they had previously (regress).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/21/2014


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