Every child feels sad or hopeless once in a while. Like adults and seniors, children experience positive and challenging emotions. These emotions are a normal part of kids’ lives and a part of growing up. However, if your kids seem persistently hopeless, sad, and disinterested, it may be time to seek professional help. They may be suffering from childhood depression.
Childhood depression is relatively rare among very young children. But as kids get older and enter teenage age, their lives get more complicated, and not every child adapts to those changes without additional support. Of course, parents and other family members are an integral part of a child’s support network. But some mental health challenges require professional intervention to help kids feel better and reach their full potential in life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 4% of kids between three and 17 years of age were diagnosed with depression before the pandemic. It is equivalent to just under three million American children. Experts estimate that the challenges and uncertainties brought by the pandemic will increase children suffering from mental health challenges.
Childhood depression rarely occurs on its own. The CDC found that nearly three-quarters of children diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety. Almost 50% struggle with behavioral problems as well as depression.
Like childhood anxiety, depression in children has increased over the past two decades. This increase puts more children at risk of a lifetime of mental health concerns.
Child Depression Signs & Symptoms
Childhood depression is not always easy to spot for parents, family members, and other loved ones. One of the best indicators parents and carers can look for is sudden, unexplained behavior changes.
Children with depression may:
- Be irritable and moody, but also throw more tantrums than normal
- Appear withdrawn or sad and hopeless
- Stop socializing with their friends and avoid company in general
- Be more critical of themselves than they used to be
Parents may also notice physical changes in their kids. These changes include:
- Different eating habits, like eating more or less than normal
- Struggle with their sleeping habits or refusing to get out of bed in the morning
- Being lethargic and moving more slowly
- Others pace and find it hard to be still
While it is typical for habits and behaviors to change as kids grow up, parents should not hesitate to look for help if their kids’ behavior is changing for the worse.
Causes of Depression in Kids
It is easy to have a romantic notion of childhood as an idyllic time without problems. Reality can be far removed from this romantic notion, though. Few children grow up sheltered from their parents’ concerns or without trouble in school or complicated friendships.
Childhood depression can develop for several different reasons:
- Genetics: Children living in households with a family history of depression can be more likely to develop the illness.
- Environmental factors: A child’s family environment, friends, and acquaintances may contribute to mental health challenges. Every family has problems occasionally, but when those problems become permanent and overwhelming, children (and their parents) may be seriously affected. Environmental causes also include stressful live events, such as the loss of a parent or a divorce.
- Physical illnesses: No one likes being sick, and children may develop mental health conditions due to physical diseases like adults. Chronic infections may be tough to deal with for kids and adolescents. Plus, some medications may have side effects closely associated with mental illness.
If the cause of a child’s depression cannot be traced to a single traumatic event, the condition is often caused by a combination of factors.
Treatment of Depression in Children
Childhood depression is more than a passing feeling of sadness or low mood. It is a severe mental health condition that needs to be professionally treated. Because the causes of child depression vary, the most successful treatments are equally flexible.
One of the most successful approaches to childhood depression is mental and behavioral health counseling, a talk therapy. Many counselors follow these steps when they work with their clients:
Assessment and diagnosis: It is essential to assess a child suffering from a mental health condition thoroughly. The evaluation helps counselors and other therapists understand the root causes of a child’s problem. It forms the foundation of all further treatment.
Treatment plan: Based on their assessment and diagnosis, counselors create a treatment plan for their young patients. This plan will be discussed with children and their parents to ensure everyone understands the chosen approach.
Treatment sessions: One-on-one counseling can start to show effects relatively quickly. However, there is rarely a standard number of sessions for children with depression. At the beginning of the treatment, counselors often give an estimate. But they are likely to reassess their initial assessment regularly and adjust their approach.
Effects of Depression in Children
Watching a child lose their zest for life, energy, and vitality can be one of the hardest things for parents to watch. For the kids themselves, depression can have life-long consequences.
Limiting social contacts and withdrawing from friends can cost kids potential life-long friendships. They may also find it harder to make friends as adults, leading to loneliness and isolation.
When a child’s mental health suffers, their academic performance may also decrease. In the short term, this may not be too problematic. But as kids fail classes and their GPA drops, they limit their further education options and rewarding careers.
Left untreated, childhood depression can spill over into adulthood, causing even more long-term mental and physical health problems. Addressing childhood depression early and effectively allows kids to recover sooner, giving them back their childhood and reaching their potential as adults.
How does Truecare’s Depression Counseling Help Children?
TrueCare’s child depression counseling, offers children and their families a unique, adaptive way of addressing their mental and behavioral health concerns. TrueCare works with a nationwide network of experienced and highly qualified mental health counselors, including child health specialists.
This extensive network makes it easy to find the right counselor near you and arrange counseling sessions without delay. TrueCare’s counselors offer online and offline counseling services. Online counseling is an excellent option for anyone living in a remote area or struggling to find time to attend sessions.
Offline counseling is available in several different settings. Children with depression can choose to see their counselor in the counselor’s office. Alternatively, some counselors offer in-home sessions, allowing kids to stay in a familiar environment for their treatment.
Leading schools have also started offering counseling sessions to address a growing need among students. Making mental health care available in schools helps reduce barriers to access. At the same time, counseling becomes normalized, and the stigma surrounding mental health problems is reduced for kids and their families.
FAQs on Depression in Kids
Childhood depression may result from a traumatic event or a combination of factors. Some children develop depression due to a family history of mental illness. Others are influenced by environmental factors such as family problems.
Childhood depression can be challenging to spot. One of the biggest indicators parents can look out for are changes in habits and behaviors that their kids display. Listlessness, prolonged sadness, and withdrawal from their favorite activities are signs that children may suffer from a mental health condition.
Childhood depression is a severe mental health condition. It needs to be diagnosed by an appropriately qualified doctor or mental health professional. Counselors use targeted questions to understand the underlying causes of a child’s issues before starting to address those. Many kids with depression may also suffer from other mental and behavioral health problems.
What treatments are available to kids and their families?
Child depression counseling is one of the most effective treatments for kids and their families. During one-on-one counseling sessions, the counselor works with the child to identify and resolve the illness’s root causes rather than only addressing symptoms. Counselors use different talk therapies depending on the child’s condition and specific concerns.
Platforms like TrueCare provide easy access to high-quality, highly specialized mental and behavioral health care. With a nationwide network of childhood mental health counselors, it is easy for families to find the right kind of support. Families can access online and offline counseling to suit their child’s needs.