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What We Treat

Depression in Children and Adolescents

What is Depression in Children and Adolescents?

Children who suffer from depression may seem listless, lack energy, be socially isolated, tend to cry or cling to parents or caregivers to a greater degree than their peers, or complain of feelings of sadness and loneliness. Depressed children may also have more tantrums or explosive outbursts than peers, or express greater frustration, distress and anger than others their age. School-age children with depression may even express thoughts about death or suicide. In adolescence, warning signs of depression may be poor performance in school, social withdrawal, negative statements about themselves, their appearance or their future, increased involvement with unsafe activities such as substance use, self-harm or risky sexual behavior, or thoughts or expressions of suicide. If you suspect that your child or adolescent may be suffering from depression, a thorough psychiatric evaluation will help to obtain a diagnosis and quickly guide effective treatment.

What is the Cause of Depression in Children and Adolescents?

Children and adolescents may be predisposed to developing depressive disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder due to various factors. A history of these or other psychiatric disorders in parents, grandparents, or siblings might cause a child to be at higher risk for depression. Trauma can also be a risk factor. A significant traumatic experience such as parental divorce, moving homes, changing schools, an illness in themselves or a family member, or serious traumatic events such as sudden loss of a loved one, childhood abuse, or witnessing domestic or community violence may contribute to a child or adolescent developing symptoms that make up a depression diagnosis. Depression may also appear in children and adolescents as a secondary condition arising from other diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as well as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. With so many profound changes happening in the world, leading to an increase in everyday stress for most children, some children and adolescents are also experiencing depression even in the absence of any other identified risk factors.

What are the Symptoms of Depression in Children and Adolescents?

Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents may include loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, fatigue or low energy, difficulty falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much, poor appetite or overeating, feelings of being a failure and other negative thoughts about the self, or even suicidal thoughts. These are some of the same symptoms experienced by adults, but depression in children and adolescents doesn’t always look the same as it does with adults. Kids may initially seem irritable or defiant and may exhibit other behaviors such as tantrums, refusal to go to school, non-compliance with rules at home or somatic (physical) complaints such as headaches or stomach upset. Doctors, teachers and other professionals may have their eye on concerns such as school refusal, eating disorders, or anxiety, which can obscure underlying depression.

How Do We Diagnose Depression in Children and Adolescents?

Depending on the age of the child, a combination of assessment measures, self-report, and reports from parents, caregivers and teachers may be used to diagnose depression in children and adolescents. Questionnaires such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) or the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) assess levels of depressive symptoms a child or adolescent may have experienced in the past 2 weeks. Reports from parents, caregivers and teachers may illuminate behaviors that can be indicative of underlying depression in children and adolescents. If you think your child is depressed, please contact The Midtown Practice for an evaluation. Our skillful clinicians are adept in distinguishing depression from the normal mood shifts associated with maturation, with stresses experienced while growing up, and from the hormonal changes associated with childhood and adolescence. Most importantly, we recognize depression as a treatable condition, and will work diligently to structure an individualized plan with the intention of relieving the negative emotions and behaviors associated with your child’s mood At The Midtown Practice, our goal is for your child to not only feel better, but also regain the ability to pursue the social and academic life that they desire.