Teen Depression & Child Depression

Teen and Child Depression Explained

Teen and child depression is often overlooked because young people tend to show the symptoms of depression differently than adults. It is suggested that at any given time, 5% of children suffer from depression with symptoms that can interfere with healthy, normal developmental processes of childhood. Without help, teenage and childhood depression can interfere with school functioning, social functioning, self-esteem, and bonding with caregivers.

Childhood depression can show in the form of aggressive and disruptive behaviors, causing increased problems in school and at home. Suicidal thoughts and actions are also very significant among youth who feel depressed, with suicide being the 3rd leading cause of death among children and adolescents (American Academy of Pediatrics).

In addition, teens and children who suffer from depression, especially when it is untreated or ignored, may begin to develop a more chronic depressive thinking style, which will set the stage for long-term effects throughout the course of the child’s life.

Teen and Child Depression’s Associated Disorders

Depression can coexist with virtually every other mental health illness, aggravating the status of those who suffer from the combination of both depression and the other mental illness. For example, depression often coexists with:

Types Of Depression

There are different types of depression or mood disorders that include feelings of depression. The National Institute of Mental Health states that the two most common forms of depression are:

Major Depressive Disorder

Also called major depression, Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person’s life.

Dysthymic Disorder

Also called dysthymia, Dysthymic Disorder is characterized by long–term (two years or longer) but less severe symptoms that may not disable a person, but can prevent one from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetime.

Symptoms of Depression in Teens and Children

It is important to remember that the symptoms of depression may look different from one person to the next. This is especially true in children and teens since young people often show the symptoms of depression very differently than adults. Below is a list of symptoms you may see, however, these symptoms can also be reflective of other difficulties:

Depression Symptoms In Preschool Or Young Elementary Aged Children:

  • Ongoing physical complaints (frequently visiting the school nurse for stomach aches, headaches)
  • Loss of energy
  • Talking negatively about him/herself
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Increase or decrease in typical emotions for the child (e.g., more irritable, tearful and crying, easily frustrated and angered)
  • Eating and sleeping problems
  • Talk about dying

Depression Symptoms In Older Elementary School Children And Teens:

  • Academic decline
  • Social problems (isolates from friends, quits previously enjoyed activities)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Disruptive behavior at home or at school that is not typical for the child
  • Aggressive behavior and irritability
  • Talk about suicide
  • Negative self-talk and seemingly low self-worth
  • Eating and sleeping problems

Please note this list of symptoms is not comprehensive. Your child or teen may be demonstrating other symptoms that reflect depression. Regardless, if you have concerns that your child or teen may be depressed, it is important to seek help immediately.

Causes of Depression in Teens and Children

Although depression’s symptoms can be representative of other problems, it is important to assess whether or not these behaviors and emotions are a sudden change for your child or teen. It is often the case that these symptoms may be identified as another problem (e.g., ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder) at home or at school. However, many times, depression, which is often overlooked, can be the underlying cause of poor behavior, changes in behavior, learning problems, etc.

It is especially important to remember that preschool children and young elementary school children do not have the vocabulary to express how they may be feeling. Thus they may show signs of depression in ways which differ from how adults reveal their depression.

Commonality of Depression in Teens and Children

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 11.2% percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. The same research shows that female teens are twice as likely to experience a depressive episode than male teens.

About 2.5% of children (under 12) in the United States suffer from depression. Depression is more common in boys under the age of 10 than in girls. However, as stated above, it is more likely for teenage girls to suffer from depression than it is for teenage boys to struggle with the symptoms of depression.

Diagnosis of Depression in Teens and Children

Depression in teens and children can be difficult to diagnose because young people may not be able to verbalize exactly how they feel as well as adults. In addition, when diagnosing an adolescent, it is important for the clinician to take into consideration that it is typical for adolescents to experience mood swings.

Diagnosing a child or adolescent often occurs after the client and the therapist have spent ample time together in individual therapy or family therapy understanding the root of the problem that has brought them into treatment. Sometimes, however, a diagnosis is made after a psychological assessment is conducted that aims to identify how the individual is functioning and what symptoms may be interfering with their ability to function at school, home, and in their social relationships. The therapist may also recommend a medical evaluation in order to rule out any health related problems that could be contributing to the depressive symptoms.

Treatment of Depression in Teens and Children

At Equilibria Kids, our child specialists in Philadelphia incorporate behavioral management tools, cognitive behavioral therapyplay therapy and creative arts activities to empower children and teens. Equilibria’s child psychologists teach children and teens how to work through their depression and learn healthy, adaptive ways of expressing their feelings.

With older children and teens, an evaluation is completed either during the therapeutic process or through a formal psychological evaluation (depending on the client’s needs) at the start of treatment. This psychological evaluation aides in identifying the most effective, research-informed approach to treating a teen’s depression.

Schedule An Appointment

If you would like to meet or talk with one of our child psychologists or therapists in Philadelphia about our depression treatment services, please call us at (267) 861-3685, option 1; or fill out our online form.