When we consider topics like depression and mental illness, the conversation largely revolves around adults and adolescents, however, these conditions are also present among the younger members of our society. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 2.1% of American children aged 3-17 have a current diagnosis of depression.
Childhood is supposed to be a time of joy, fun, and happiness. For those children who live with depression, however, this childhood joy is robbed, replaced instead by a persistent sadness, irritability, and negativity. If this is not addressed, it will continue to grow, taking over every area of their lives. In more serious cases, it can lead to self-destructive behavior or even suicide.
It is our responsibility as the adults in their lives to pay attention to the signs and symptoms, recognizing that there is something wrong, reaching out to professionals in the mental health field to obtain the help that they require.
Here are 5 important warning signs that your child may be depressed:
#1 – Withdrawal
Pay attention to where your child is focusing their attention. A child that is struggling with depression may withdraw from their family members or their friends. Children that were once highly social may start to isolate themselves, choosing to spend time alone rather than being around their friends. They may also withdraw from activities they once enjoyed – no longer showing interest in drawing, singing, biking or whatever else they once spent a great deal of their time doing.
#2 – Insomnia or Excessive Sleeping
Much like the adults who live with depression, these children may be dealing with a significant change in their sleeping habits. Some children will struggle with insomnia, unable to fall asleep despite experiencing extreme fatigue or low energy. Meanwhile, others may find themselves sleeping for hours upon hours, and yet still exhausted when they do drag themselves out of bed.
#3 – Anger, Irritability, Temper Tantrums
These behaviors are often overlooked, as they are seen as regular childhood behaviors. If a child is regularly lashing out this may be a sign that they are feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. Keep in mind that children are far less prepared to manage their emotions effectively. Rather than manifesting as sadness or melancholy, depression in children is a series of angry outbursts and aggression.
#4 – Difficulty Concentrating
Many who suffer from depression report constant negative thoughts and worries occupying their mind. These thoughts can be incredibly distracting, robbing them of the ability to focus. This may be seen in school, as they struggle to concentrate on the work put before them or appearing noticeably distracted around the home despite being given a task.
#5 – Aches and Pains
When a child is internalizing their pain, frustration, and aggression, it may be seen as aches and pains throughout the body. For example, if a child regularly grits their teeth when frustrated, they may suffer from headaches or jaw pain. Another common ailment associated with children who are overly anxious or depressed is stomach aches. If you notice that your child is regularly suffering from these or other aches and pains with no logical explanation, it may be a sign of something more.