Many people assume that depression is a condition that only affects adults. However, children can have depression, too. Some children experience symptoms of depression because of life circumstances. They might be struggling to adjust to a new school after moving, grieving the loss of a loved one, dealing with bullying, or feeling left out of their peer group. Others might be genetically predisposed because of their family history.
All parents should know the warning signs of depression in children so that they can get their kids the help they need if they are having trouble. Many depression in symptoms in children are quite similar to those that adults experience. Here are a few common signs that parents should look out for.
1. Loneliness and Self-Isolation
Perhaps your child used to have lots of friends. But recently, they haven’t shown much interest in socializing. They may have stopped asking for your permission for their friends to come over, or they might not have asked to visit someone else’s house in quite a while. Maybe they try to stay in their room during dinner, or they try to get out of attending family gatherings. When you ask them how they’re doing, they tend to clam up. It might seem like they’re isolating themselves.
Detaching from family and friends is a major warning sign of depression in both adults and children. Even if your child feels desperately lonely, they might not know how to reach out for help.
2. Loss of Interest in Hobbies
Maybe your child had lots of hobbies. They might have enjoyed playing a sport, going to a certain extracurricular activity, reading books and coming up with stories of their own, or doing arts and crafts. However, they no longer show much interest in those activities.
Their teachers may have even reached out to you with concerns about your child’s loss of interest in subjects they were previously passionate about — maybe your child is no longer engaging in class discussions, completing their assignments on time, or contributing to group projects.
Your child might feel numb because of depression. They may not elicit as much excitement or satisfaction from their hobbies as they once did. Additionally, they might lack the energy to engage in their old hobbies and activities.
3. Changes in Eating and Sleeping Patterns
If your child is depressed, they might not be eating enough. Alternatively, they might be reaching for comfort foods and trying to wriggle out of eating healthy meals. Eating sugary, salty foods can be a coping mechanism for depression.
Your child’s symptoms could also be keeping them up at night — or causing them to sleep for long hours into the day. If your child’s appetite and sleeping habits have been thrown off, they might be irritable or prone to tantrums and outbursts. They may also be weepy and start crying because of seemingly minor inconveniences. Exhaustion can cause noticeable behavioral changes.
4. Physical Symptoms
Depression doesn’t just affect someone’s emotional state — they can also end up dealing with debilitating physical symptoms. If your child is living with depression, they might have complained about headaches, stomachaches, or insomnia. Perhaps you’ve even taken your child to the doctor to ask about these ailments, only for the doctor to say that there was no obvious cause.
While physical symptoms shouldn’t be dismissed or written off as “just stress,” they can be indicative of depression. It’s worth exploring this explanation as you seek treatment for your child.
Do you suspect that your child is struggling with depression? Working with a therapist can help them heal. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.