Childhood Depression: Signs & Symptoms
What are the signs of depression in children? It is critical that depression is accurately identified and treated in children because their future mental health depends on it. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that childhood depression often persists, recurs and continues into adulthood, especially if untreated, and may indicate other impending severe illnesses.
Children suffering from depression may experience symptoms such as inability to have fun, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, extreme apathy, crying, sleep problems, feelings of worthlessness, weight change, physical complaints, or frequent thoughts of death or suicide (Papalia, 2004). If five or more of these symptoms exist for at least two weeks, a child should be evaluated by a professional for possible depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depressed children may also sulk, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, or worry that a parent may die. Uncovering or confirming childhood depression can be a confusing process due to a wide range of common feelings experienced by children.
Childhood depression may also display itself through low-self esteem, poor social skills, or pessimism (APA, 2000). Of course the presence of these signs is to be expected for many children or adolescents and alone does not necessarily signify depression. Professional assistance in verifying the presence of depression is beneficial due to potential signs that seem typical in child development such as irritability, negativity, and feelings of being misunderstood which may exist to an unhealthy degree (NIMH). It is also important to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms that the child is experiencing.