Do you suspect that your child is depressed at times? Are you not sure how to recognize depression in your child? Like other ailments, it can be challenging to identify when your child is not quite right? When there are no physical changes to identify depression, it is vital to recognize the behavioral changes often associated with depression.
Things to look out for if you suspect your child is depressed:
Anhedonia is when one no longer enjoys the things that they once wanted or appreciated. An excellent example of this is when your child that once enjoyed playing sports no longer finds joy in playing their favorite sport. A depressed mood may also be noted; this is when their mood is down or negative. You may notice that your once bubbly and happy child is no longer quite so bubbly.
Watch how they are eating. Have you noticed an increase or decrease in appetite? Either could signify a symptom of depression.
Changes in sleep patterns may occur with depression. It is important to note if your child is reporting difficulty with sleep or sleeping too much. If your child that never took a nap during the day is now sleeping all day, this may warrant further investigation of their sleep patterns.
Has your teen recently become extremely tired out of proportion to their activity level? The fatigue could go along with a sleep disturbance, so this may be the first sign of a sleep disturbance.
Do you ever notice that your child expressed guilt, shame, or feelings of worthlessness more recently? These symptoms could be a sign of negative thinking about their past or things they feel they can’t change. If they express these negative feelings, try to take the time to identify the negative situation surrounding their thoughts.
Have you noted that your child seems slowed down or more revved up? These changes are known as psychomotor retardation (slowed down) or psychomotor agitation (revved up). This would be something that is not occasional as we all have ups and downs in energy levels. This change would be a more consistent change over more extended periods.
The timeline of the symptoms is crucial. Just like adults, children will have mood swings or changes. Having a bad day or even a week is not unusual. These mood changes should become more of a concern when symptoms are present for more than two weeks.
The most severe symptom of depression is suicidal ideation. Has your child ever harmed themself or disclosed thoughts of wanting to harm themself? Suicidal ideation is an obvious sign of depression and should be taken seriously to ensure proper care is provided by a healthcare professional to help your child emergently. Remember that even if one does not have suicidal ideation, it does not mean that they are not depressed.
Try to avoid missing the subtle changes in your child that may be a sign of depression. Ask them how they are feeling, be prepared to listen, and offer a helping hand.
Be sure to return here for more information about helping your child with mental health disorders here at Cypress Educational Services.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.