Signs of Depression - Childhood Depression And The Effects On The Family

Depression in young kids is rare, but when it does happen, it can be hard to diagnose and treat. Many of us assume that young children are generally happy beings, and when they get upset it's only a short time before they're happily playing with their toys and friends again. In most cases this is true - however, sometimes, if a child is particularly tearful or withdrawn for long periods of time, it could be that she's suffering from depression. Parents and even pediatricians and psychologists find it difficult to identify depression in children of this age, because the kids themselves aren't even really able to talk about their symptoms and explain how they are feeling. When kids become school-age or teenagers and are a bit more articulate, it's generally a easier to know when a child has moved passed "having the blues" into a more serious mental health issue.

Early Childhood Depression Causes

So just what could cause a toddler, or a 5-year old, to become depressed? In some cases, there may be one or more clearly identifiable reasons for a child to become depressed. If she's affected by a developmental disorder, such as autism or Asperger's syndrome, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it wouldn't be so unusual for her to experience low moods and negative emotions, which can get out of control if she doesn't receive the right support.

Children may also become depressed after the death of a family member or a due to a dysfunctional situation in the home (such as prolonged conflict between parents). Kids are surprisingly sensitive to their parents' emotions - if things at home are tense, the children may be just as stressed out as their Moms and Dads. For example, the effects of maternal depression on children can be significant, particularly if Mom is the primary care giver with whom the child has most contact. Then a vicious cycle begins - Mom is depressed, child becomes stressed out and depressed, Mom feels guilty about the negative impact on her child and becomes more depressed, child becomes even more stressed out and so such situations, it's important for the whole family to seek medical help.

Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression In Children

Early childhood depression symptoms may be consistent with normal temper tantrums and bad moods, which can make them hard to pick up on. If over a period of weeks and months, your child is often tearful, is no longer enjoying activities that used to be fun, is withdrawing from you and from playmates, and has disturbed eating and sleeping habits, these could all be signs that your child is experiencing more than just a bad mood. Of course, children of this age are all so different - one depressed child may begin to refuse cuddles and physical contact with others, whereas another may cling to his mother desperately and wail if anyone tries to separate them. Kids react to feelings of insecurity and not "feeling safe" in different ways.

Signs Of Bipolar Disorder In Children

Bipolar disorder is also referred to as manic depression. In adults, this means that the depressed person goes through periods of extreme elation, interspersed with periods of extreme sadness and negativity - generally speaking, neither state of mind seems justified based on the person's external circumstances. The signs of manic depression in children are similar. When he's "up" he may seem to be simply overjoyed by regular, everyday events, as well as hyperactive and noisy. When he's "down" he may seem to plummet to the depths of despair for almost no reason, with tears and screaming, or simply persistent sadness that no amount of cajoling or comforting can relieve. Signs and symptoms of depression in bipolar children may include violent and aggressive behavior towards other kids and towards adults, and extreme difficulties in adapting to discipline in the school environment.

Treatment Of Depression In Children

Doctors are understandably reluctant to give children mood-altering medications to treat depression, therefore psychotherapy, behavioral therapies and counseling will all be tried first. However, if a child's behavior becomes violent and potentially threatening to others, or if a child expresses suicidal thoughts, medication will be used in the child's best interest. Sessions with a psychologist can help to teach a child to manage her negative emotions, and group counseling sessions can help to relieve some of the effects on depression on the family - after all, it's not just the depressed child who suffers, parents and siblings live with the stress of childhood depression too.

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