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What you need to know about childhood depression

As strange as it might sound, children can get depressed too. It’s important to be aware of this possibility and to watch for potential signs to know if professional intervention is necessary.

childhood depression

Is depression possible in children?

To be blunt, yes. While it’s easy to dismiss children’s mood swings or sadness as momentary emotional lapses, it’s important to watch for signs of depression. This condition is not reserved for teenagers and adults; even preschoolers can suffer from depression. Depression is a brain disorder independent of age, although hormonal changes can definitely exacerbate the condition. Hence, moody teenagers.

How common is depression in children?

Depression isn’t a common childhood disorder, but it does exist. Roughly one in 33 preteen children might be suffering from depression, and that number jumps to about one in eight for teenagers. The condition doesn’t necessarily spawn from parents or even the environment; a child can simply carry a predisposition for depression, much like many other brain disorders.

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What are the actual risks?

The risks of allowing a child’s depression to go untreated are identical to those an adult would face. We’re talking antisocial tendencies, lack of interest in any sort of activity (which could lead to significant weight gain), changes in eating habits (overeating or not eating enough), noticeable behavioural changes that can affect relationships with others and, of course, suicide. It’s important to stay aware and to pay attention.

How can I spot depression in my child?

Symptoms of childhood depression are quite similar to those experienced in adulthood, but some are quite catered to the age group. Your child might display some or all of these signs; it varies. Here are some symptoms or signs you might notice:

  • Anger, irritability, crying
  • Social withdrawal or poor communication
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • Decreased interest in activities, low energy and constant boredom
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Guilt or poor self-esteem
  • Talk of or hinting at self-destructive behaviour and/or suicide

See how to deal with depression in the workplace >>

Is childhood depression treatable?

Absolutely. If you spot these symptoms or have reason for concern, take your child to your pediatrician. If it’s your teenager who’s showing symptoms, pay a visit to your family doctor. Since most doctors are not qualified to identify or diagnose a child with depression, ask for a referral to a child psychologist.

As a parent, you must be involved in the process. Soak up all the information you can. Your child’s psychologist or pediatrician might recommend psychotherapeutic support, medication or both. Consider your options, and choose accordingly.


Being aware of childhood depression and its symptoms might help to spot a child at risk. Pay attention to your child, and act on your intuition.

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