Also known as: 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?

There does not appear to be a specific cause in children; depression seems to be the result of a number of risk factors; biological (girls more often than boys, born preterm, having a mother younger than 18yrs. of age etc.), psychological (low esteem, negative body image, very self-critical, anxious etc.), genetic (having a depressed parent increases risk by about 4 times normal) and environmental (reaction to stress like physical/verbal/sexual abuse, loss of a parent/close family member, bullying, illness, poverty, or medications etc.) all may be contributors. 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 and 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.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 11/27/2017 10:40:41 AM

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