For many children, childhood is a fun and carefree time. For others with depression, this may not be the case. Research shows that pediatric depression can manifest itself in children even as young as preschool age. But how can parents distinguish between normal shifts in mood and a more serious mood disorder like depression?
According to author and clinical psychologist, Deborah Serani, PsyD, in her book entitled Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, there are several signs parents and caretakers can watch for to help identify true pediatric depression.
Here are a few red flags in children that may be cause for further evaluation:
Withdrawing from the outside world or losing interest in things that the child would normally enjoy such as play, school, sports, or hanging out with friends.
Becoming lethargic, tired, or easily agitated. Children may also complain of physical aches or pains.
- Expressing repeated feelings of worthlessness – not being good enough or not measuring up.
- Exhibiting a distinct change in behavior that is out of the norm. For instance, a sudden slip in grades or desire to sleep more.
- Isolating oneself or retreating to a secret hiding spot.
Parents or caregivers who have concerns should take the following actions, said Serani.
- Talk to a doctor to rule out any medical conditions like anemia, mono, or a streptococcus infection, which could be the cause of depression-like symptoms.
- If no medical condition is present, visit with a mental health professional trained in mood disorders. Childhood screenings can help identify depression or precursors for depression as well as best-suited options for treatment or intervention.
- Continue to remain vigilant regarding symptoms. Every child has “off” days. However, symptoms of depression usually endure for more than two weeks and start to affect various aspects of daily life.
If you or someone you know has concerns about pediatric depression, contact Family Guidance Center. Depression isn’t a condition that children simply outgrow, and the best outcome for treatment comes with early attention. Last year alone, Family Guidance helped nearly 1,000 area children. Learn more about free screenings and available programs at familyguidance.org.