Depression

Also known as: dysthymia, clinical depression, major depressive disorder, major depression.

What is depression?

Depression is a common (2% of preschool and school age children; higher in adolescents) clinical condition that affects a child/adolescents mood and mental health, for more than two weeks, severe enough to interfere with everyday living.

What causes depression in children and teens?

There does not appear to be a specific cause in children; depression seems to be the result of a number of risk factors. Some biological risk factors include:
  • gender of the child (occurs in girls more often than boys)
  • born prematurely
  • mother was younger than 18 ears of age during pregnancy
Psychological risk factors include:
  • low esteem
  • negative body image
  • tendency to be self-critical
  • anxiety
Environmental risk factors:
  • reaction to stress like physical/verbal/sexual abuse
  • loss of a parent/close family member
  • bullying
  • illness
  • poverty
  • medications
Children with a parent that has experienced depression at are an increases risk (by about 4 times normal) of being affected. Depression may also be associated with other mental health disorders (e.g. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-ADHD).

What are the symptoms of depression?

Major depression is more than sadness lasting a few days; symptoms must interfere with daily functioning and last for weeks/months or years (if untreated).

Diagnostic symptoms include some or all of:

  • significant sadness
  • poor appetite with weight loss (or gaining a lot of weight)
  • change in sleep pattern (trouble sleeping or sleeping too much)
  • agitation
  • fatigue
  • feeling worthless
  • loss of energy
  • thoughts of suicide or death.

Children may also present with irritability, deteriorating school performance, boredom, physical symptoms like abdominal pain or recurrent headaches, and risk taking destructive and acting out behaviors etc.

What are depression care options? 

Lifestyle changes, stress management, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, complementary treatments and if severe enough, medications are all of value in treating children and teens with depression.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 19, 2019 01:47 PM

Pediatric Psychology

The Pediatric Psychology team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses a multidisciplinary and family centered treatment approach for a variety of illnesses and conditions.

Learn more

Weekly Support Programs

​F.O.C.U.S. Program

This program is currently suspended due to the pandemic. 8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behavioral issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

This program is currently suspended due to the pandemic. 8 week program. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.

Calm Kids

8 week program. Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

The six-week program is designed for teens ages 12 to 17 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep. Learn more.