Depression in Children

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Childhood Depression Symptoms

Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. Depressive disorders are characterized by pervasive mood changes that affect all aspects of an individual's daily functioning.

Symptoms of depression also include

  • helplessness,
  • guilt,
  • feelings of worthlessness,
  • hopelessness,
  • loss of energy,
  • loss of appetite,
  • lack of interest in daily activities,
  • irritability,
  • sleep problems,
  • self-loathing,
  • thoughts of suicide.

Quick GuidePhysical Symptoms of Depression in Pictures

Physical Symptoms of Depression in Pictures

Depression in children facts

  • Depression is a condition that is more severe than normal sadness and can significantly interfere with a child's ability to function.
  • Depression affects about 2% of preschool and school-age children.
  • Depression in children does not have one specific cause but rather a number of biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors that are part of its development.
  • General symptoms of depression, regardless of age, include having a depressed or irritable mood or loss of interest or pleasure for at least two weeks and having at least five clinical signs and symptoms.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth 10-24 years of age.
  • To diagnose depression, a health-care professional will likely perform or refer for a thorough medical assessment and physical examination and ask standard mental-health questions.
  • Treatment for childhood depression may include addressing any medical conditions that caused or worsened the condition. It can also involve lifestyle adjustments, psychotherapy, and, for moderate to severe depression, medication.
  • Interpersonal therapy (ITP) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the major approaches commonly used to treat childhood depression.
  • About 60% of children who take antidepressant medication improve. It may take up to six weeks of treatment with medication at its effective dose to start improving.
  • Childhood depression is a risk factor for developing a number of other mental-health symptoms and disorders.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States in people over 5 years of age.
  • Prevention of childhood depression seeks to reduce risk factors and strengthen protective factors using approaches that are appropriate for the child's developmental level.
  • Family members and friends are advised to seek mental-health assessment and treatment for the depressed child.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/26/2017

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