Depression in Children and Teenagers

Childhood depression is a very real problem: a problem compounded by the common misconception that children don’t get depressed. In fact, 2.5% of children suffer from major depressive incidents. Triggers such as divorce, the death of a friend or family member, or family problems may cause childhood depression. It’s not often discussed, but young children suffering from depression do attempt suicide, and often succeed.

Symptoms of Childhood Depression

Warning signs that could indicate a child is struggling with depression include:

  • Frequent complaints of vague physical ailments (headaches, stomachaches, fatigue)
  • Sudden drop in school performance
  • Lack of interest in play
  • Excessive concern with failure
  • Frequent irritability, crying
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Boredom
  • Attempts to run away from home
  • Reckless behavior

Teenage Depression

The moody, irritable, anxiety-ridden teen is a common stereotype, and certainly many teens fall into this category. The teenage years are turbulent times. Teenagers have to deal with sudden body changes, peer groups, and an emerging sense of self. In all the confusion, it’s easy to miss the signs of teenage depression.

Unfortunately, many instances of teenage depression lead to suicide attempts. Talk of suicide must always be taken seriously: 70% of teenagers who talk about committing suicide eventually make a serious attempt to end their lives. A 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10 to 24 year olds.

A cautionary note on the suicidal teen who is receiving treatment for depression: teens (and adults too) are most likely to commit suicide as the treatment begins to work. While depressed, many people lack the energy to attempt suicide. Treatment of depression takes time, and the teen’s energy level may rise while he or she is still suicidal. Special care and attention should be given during this time.

Anxiety Attack or Depression?

People talk about anxiety attacks when they describe the nervousness and panic that accompany a stressful event. For kids and teens, a music recital, giving a speech or taking an important exam might set off an anxiety attack. But for many, anxiety disorders can result in feelings of intense uneasiness and panic, obsessive behavior and eating disorders.

People suffering from depression often develop some form of anxiety disorder. If so, both the anxiety disorder and the depression must be treated.

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