Education is an essential step in the process of helping a child or adolescent heal from depression. The more you understand about the signs, symptoms, and effects of depression, the better prepared you will be to get help for your son or daughter. At Altacare, we’re committed to supporting students and families throughout Montana as they work to heal from depression.
Understanding Depression in Children & Adolescents
Learn about depression in children and adolescents
Depression is a mental health condition that affects both adults and children alike. Known as a mood disorder, this condition causes periods of low mood beyond what might be considered sadness or a case of “the blues.” Depressive episodes can last for varying lengths of time and can affect each young person in different ways.
It can sometimes be difficult to discern whether a child is experiencing clinical depression or displaying developmentally appropriate “moodiness” that is a natural reaction to hormonal fluctuations that happen during puberty. While it’s always best to seek a diagnosis from a mental health professional who specializes in treating young people, there are a few things to keep in mind about depression in adolescence. Without proper treatment, a child who has depression will not be able to function to potential at home, work, or school. They will struggle with self-esteem, peer relationships, motivation, and family dynamics. Like other forms of mental illness, depression is a progressive disease, meaning that it will get worse over time.
Fortunately, depression is highly treatable with the right support, and your child can recover from depressive symptoms. Altacare is here to partner with parents, schools, and other providers across Montana to offer school-based services to young people who are battling mental and behavioral health concerns.
Statistics about depression among children and adolescents
The National Institute of Mental Health shares the following statistics about depression among children and adolescents:
- An estimated 3.1 million adolescents ages 12-17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in a single year.
- More adolescent females (19.4%) than males (6.4%) struggle with depression.
- Approximately 60% of adolescents with major depressive disorder do not receive treatment.
Causes & Risk Factors
Causes and risk factors for depression among children and adolescents
While more research is necessary to fully understand the root cause of depression in children and adolescents, there are some known causes that have shown to increase a young person’s risk for developing the condition, including:
- Experiencing abuse, neglect, or other types of childhood adversity
- Having a disabling or chronic medical condition
- Having a parent or sibling who has struggled with depression or other types of mental illness
- Personal history of mental illness
- Being female (depression is more common among girls than among boys)
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents
A mental health professional can review your child’s symptoms and determine whether they are suffering from depression. However, there are some signs and symptoms to look for if you’re concerned that your child may need professional help, including:
- Giving away important possessions (this can indicate that the child is thinking about suicide, which can be a symptom of depression)
- Frequently talking about death or dying
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Apparent loss of interest in activities or topics that were once of great importance
- Withdrawing from friends and/or family members
- Frequent headaches and stomachaches
- Altered sleep patterns (including both insomnia and hypersomnia)
- Changes in appetite, and resultant weight gain or loss
- Fatigue, lethargy, or persistent lack of energy
- Poor sense of self-confidence
- Indecisiveness or poor decision-making skills
- Diminished self-esteem
- Pervasive sense of helplessness or futility
- Recurring thoughts of death or dying
- Suicidal ideation
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Significant mood swings
Effects of Depression
Effects of untreated depression in children and adolescents
Without getting professional help, a young person who suffers from depression may experience the following negative effects:
- Damaged parent/child relationship
- Substance abuse and addiction later in life
- Health problems
- Onset or worsening of other mental health disorders
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal behaviors
- Trouble making and keeping friends
- Substandard performance in school
- Academic failure
Common co-occurring disorders among children and adolescents who develop depression
A child who suffers from depression is more likely to also be diagnosed with:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Borderline personality disorder
- Substance use disorders (the clinical term for addiction)
Why Seek Treatment for Depression
Altacare can help children and adolescents who have been struggling with depression
If a child or adolescent who is struggling with depression does not get professional help, they will continue to experience significant damages to their health and well-being. They may experience physical health complications and be unable to meet key developmental milestones. Their ability to engage with peers and form friendships will be impacted, and they may struggle to develop healthy bonds with loved ones. When a young person experiences episodes of chronic low mood, they may withdraw and isolate themselves from people, places, and things they used to enjoy. They may even engage in self-harm and/or experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
While depression is a serious and sometimes dangerous mental illness, it is also highly treatable. Altacare’s teams of compassionate, experienced mental health professionals and behavioral specialists can provide your child with the school-based services they need to heal. Our therapeutic programming has proven effective in assisting young people and families whose lives have been touched by mental illness. To learn more about Altacare, contact us today. We look forward to speaking with you about ways we can support a child you care about who is suffering from depression.