There is a tendency to dismiss symptoms of childhood depression as just a phase that children are going through. We are all aware that children have moods, just as adults, and they will get sad or angry with circumstances. However, when this sadness or anger persists for more than a couple of days, it could very well be much more than just a phase.
Depression in children younger than 12 is fairly uncommon, but it does happen, and it seems to be on the rise in recent years. Because they do not yet experience the chemical and hormonal changes, when children experience true depression it is due to a predisposition towards the condition. Science has not yet identified all the factors that create a tendency towards depressive disorders, but a family history of depression is a common sign.
Some of the symptoms of childhood depression will involve changes in the child’s attitude and outlook on life. This could be a marked loss of appetite and difficulty in getting to sleep, or it could be just the opposite–increased appetite and sleeping much more than normal. A usually outgoing child that wants to be alone all the time, or stops doing activities that he used to enjoy, are both warning signs of a problem.
Depression doesn’t always equal sadness, although it can. Often a child will be irritable or angry, rather than tearful and sad. This is because children do not have the same emotional capacity to deal with depression, so it may come out with bad behavior rather than crying. It is not unusual to see a depressed child begin to misbehave in school or even threaten to run away from home.
As you can see, the symptoms of childhood depression can be rather deceptive. That’s why portents often overlook the signs, thinking it is just a phase that the child is going through. While some children will be sad and tearful, many are not. Parents should trust their instincts when they notice something has changed. If you think your child may be depressed, don’t dismiss the signs as a phase. Get some professional help.