Depression in children is quite difficult to understand as they cannot express it freely, however, there are certain symptoms that can make you understand that he/she is depressed. Depression is different from sadness as it is persistent and is not at all a passing phase. A lot of reasons can lead to childhood depression such as an unhealthy home environment, bullying, general life stressors, a history of mental illness, alcoholism in parents and the like. Let us discuss some of the symptoms of depression here.
Temper tantrums and/or crying bouts
A child can be irritable and show a lot of temper for no reason or a child might also start crying without any major reason. These signs should be treated as red flags.
Loss of interest in an everyday activity
A child may lack interest in everyday activities and specifically might not want to go to school. They might want to stay at home and avoid friends.
Lack of concentration
A depressed child might not be able to concentrate on studies and other tasks given at school. You might find unfinished homework and the like.
Changes in sleep pattern
A child might remain awake all night or might sleep too much. Both these sleep patterns are wrong and hence demand immediate attention.
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
A depressed child might feel worthless and express his feelings in dialogues such as “ I am worthless” “I am no good” “ Nobody likes me” “ Nobody understands me”. These expressions should be taken seriously and taken as signs of depression.
A child might also complain of physical issues which are actually not present such as stomach ache, puckish feeling, body ache which might be an indirect expression of a depressed mood.
A lot of children can be severely depressed and express death wishes. They might say that they do not want to live anymore. It is very important to take the suicidal feelings very seriously. Do not pass it off lightly as children can actually attempt suicide. You should be very cautious.
If you identify these symptoms in your child, then it is very important to talk to a mental health professional. You should also make your own efforts by talking to the child properly and understanding the cause of the depressed mood. Giving a positive home environment and showering a lot of attention can work really well. Children demand to be understood and once they feel understood, a lot of children start feeling better. Taking them out regularly for some fun activities can also be very much beneficial. Do not get overwhelmed if you find these symptoms in your child. A lot of patience and the right intervention can easily get them out of it.
Content Contributed by Shyamolima Datta, Counselling Psychologist