Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently low or sad mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in your daily life. 

Depression, also called ‘clinical depression’ or a ‘depressive disorder’ causes distressing symptoms that affect how you think, feel, act or behave on a daily basis. Depression can occur along with other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), cancer, heart diseases, etc. or it can make the symptoms of these conditions worse.

Possible causes of depression include a combination of biological (relating to living organisms), psychological (relating to a mental or emotional state of a person), and social (relating to the society) sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may cause changes in your brain function, including the altered activity of certain neural circuits in your brain. 

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behaviour, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide (the act of intentionally causing one’s own death).       

The mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.

Depression in Children

Children also suffer from depression at times. Childhood depression is different from the normal "blues" and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. Childhood depression is persistent sadness that children experience and start to feel alone, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When this type of sadness is unending, it disrupts every part of the child's life. It interferes with the child's daily activities, schoolwork, and peer relationships. It can also affect the life of each family member. 

Keep in mind that while depression in children is a serious illness, it is also a treatable one.  

Studies show that depression among children is very common and affects about 2% of preschool and school-age children. If you think your child is continuously sad, unhappy, angry or distressed, it might be a good idea to visit your paediatrician to understand why your child might be behaving like this.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of depression in children will help you be aware and identify its onset, if any, at an earlier stage.

Signs of Depression in Children

The symptoms of depression in children vary. It is often not diagnosed and untreated because they are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes that occur during their growth years. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and mood changes. 

Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:

  • Irritability or anger 

  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness 

  • Social withdrawal

  • Increased sensitivity to rejection 

  • Changes in appetite - either increased or decreased

  • Changes in sleep - sleeplessness or excessive sleep

  • Vocal outbursts of crying 

  • Difficulty in concentrating 

  • Fatigue and low energy 

  • Physical complaints (such as stomach aches, headaches) that don't respond to treatment

  • Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests

Not all children have all of these symptoms. Although some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, most kids with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. 

Childhood depression can have a serious impact on your child's life, so it is always important to be on the lookout for warning signs. 

Talk to your child to understand what and how they are feeling on a regular basis. Remember to be supportive and non-judgmental. Early interventions in the form of therapy and medications can help your child get back on track before depression turns into a serious illness. 

Consult your paediatrician/general physician/mental health professional to know in detail about the causes, treatment, and management of depression in children.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.