We often think of depression as an adult illness that follows the responsibilities and stressors of adulthood, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Children have fears, worries, stress and depression just as adults do, and ignoring the signs could be detrimental to your child’s overall well-being.

According to the CDC, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 (4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety, and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with depression. And these numbers don’t seem to be going down. Instead, the CDC explains that the numbers continue to increase as time passes.

With that being said, there are signs that your child will show, and below are 10 major ones that should never be ignored. Also, if your child or anyone else you know is having thoughts of suicide, or of harming themselves, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.)

1. A decreased interest in their favorite hobbies and activities.

Healthy children are usually quite active and very curious about the world around them and are geared towards doing the things that make them happy and fulfilled. If your child starts to shift away from their favorite activities and hobbies, this should serve as a major red flag that something isn’t quite right.

2. A sudden decline in grades.

If your child goes from straight A’s to C’s and D’s for no obvious reason, it may be time to check in with them and their mental health. This is listed in the top four signs of depression in children on Children’s website and can be a symptom of not only depression but other mental illnesses.

3. They are easily angered and become crankier than usual.

This sign is most noticeable in children that typically have a positive demeanor, however, anger in children is a general red flag of something deeper brewing beneath the surface. The sooner your child can begin working on this with a therapist, the brighter their prognosis is for the future. Of course, mood swings can be typical- but if their anger surpasses normal childhood mood swings, it’s time for a checkup.

4. Sleep changes.

Regardless of whether they are sleeping less, or sleeping too much- if this becomes a common occurrence, it can be an indication that their mental health is suffering. Not only that, but these sleep disturbances could lead to suffering mental health if they aren’t already struggling with it. It is best to nip this in the bud as soon as possible.

5. Social withdrawal.

By nature, children are social creatures that want to be accepted and feel connected to others. A decrease in social withdrawal and increase in social isolation is a tell-tell sign that something isn’t quite right.

6. Poor concentration.

Have you noticed your child is having a hard time staying focused and concentrating in areas they once had no problem with? This could be a sign of depression, or even worse- so it’s best to speak to a doctor to find out what is happening with your child.

7. Self-Destructive behaviors and self-harming tendencies.

Children are not born with an instinct to harm themselves. Instead, it is built into us to protect ourselves and survive. However, depressed or mentally ill children may act in ways that are harmful to themselves, and this is one of the biggest red flags they can give.

8. Frequent crying.

Everyone cries, but if you notice your child is crying for seemingly no reason or crying more frequently than normal, it may mean they are dealing with depression, anxiety or trauma. Children cry because something is wrong or off to them- and even if you can’t see what is going on at the surface, does not mean there is nothing going on within.

9. They complain often of physical pain & illnesses.

Depression, anxiety, and other illnesses can sometimes create physical pain and discomfort. And while children do get sick from time to time, they should not be constantly complaining of pain, discomfort, or sickness. If you are taking them to the doctor and the doctor can’t seem to figure out what is wrong- it could be that their symptoms are being caused by a mental illness or depression.

10. Feelings of hopelessness.

Depressed children will claim they feel hopeless, and will give up on things without trying and retreat to isolation. Hopelessness can lead to self-harm, acting out, or worse. if your child is saying or acting in ways that make you sense that they feel hopeless, this is likely a sign that they are suffering from depression.

Children are complex beings with a myriad of emotions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If you notice drastic and strange changes in your child’s behaviors, it is best to not try to self-diagnose them, but instead, reach out to a professional. Getting them the help they need as soon as possible is the key to helping them cope and find the proper treatment. Stay tuned into your children to recognize changes in them, before their health begins to suffer. If you notice any of the above red flags in your child- please seek help.

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