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
Environmental risk factors:
- reaction to stress like physical/verbal/sexual abuse
- loss of a parent/close family member
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)
- 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
Dr. Gray is an adolescent medicine specialist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.
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Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Mood and anxiety disorders cover a wide range of conditions that fall under the umbrella of mental health disorders.
An adjustment disorder is an unhealthy, excessive behavioral or emotional reaction to a difficult life event, which may be occur suddenly or ongoing for some time.
Psychotherapy is a form of therapy and counseling that is conducted by a mental health professional, for example a psychologist, a licensed mental health counselor, social worker or a psychiatrist.
Behavioral modification is a treatment method that attempts to change negative behaviors through the use of positive or negative reinforcement.
Family and group therapy are both forms of psychological counseling that involve multiple participants and can take many forms. Families can all go to therapy together to improve communication and address conflicts.
A psychiatric evaluation is an evaluation process with a mental health professional, designed to diagnose and treat (using both medications and other therapies), emotional, behavioral or developmental conditions or disorders.