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Childhood Depression or in Adolescence. What is it, symptoms and treatment

Childhood Depression or in Adolescence. What is it, symptoms and treatment

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Being a mental disorder, depression is more than a state of mind of profound sadness. Being a comprehensive clinical picture, there are several types of depression and ways to deal with them.

Childhood depression, still little talked about, is a reality and apparently affects both boys and girls. At ages closer to adulthood, there is a predominance of female patients.

It can appear during childhood and even adolescence, depression should be faced seriously, as real and taken care of as soon as possible. As in all cases, symptoms can differ between children and that is why VillaRamadas explains this disorder a little better. Be aware of signs, but never forget that the correct diagnosis must be made with a specialized team. Only then can you really help those in need.

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What is childhood or adolescent depression?

Depressão Adolescência
© Pexels

Depression in childhood or adolescence is, like any type of depression, a mental disorder. Not having a specific minimum age for its onset, when present in childhood, this type of disease has a serious impact on the growth and development of the child. It is important that it is recognized so that the treatment comes at the right time.

As in the case of adults, depression in children or adolescents mainly involves changes in mood and problems with self-esteem. However, when it appears during childhood, the clinical picture may not be limited to mood swings. Children may not be fully aware of their feelings and emotions or may not be able to express them verbally. Thus, it is important to pay attention to non-verbal communication, namely your gestures, your body posture, your facial expression and look.

Symptoms of childhood or teen depression

As in many childhood illnesses, the symptoms of depression can be confused with several problems and therefore you should never look at a symptom as a certainty of diagnosis of childhood depression. In any case, it is extremely important that you pay attention to the signs, but that it is an expert to make the correct diagnosis.

In the case of childhood depression, the symptoms are often confused with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But there is something that can be taken into account, that can help to distinguish them – the existence of a traumatic event (e.g. separations, abandonment, illness or death of someone close, among others).

Criança Chorar
The symptoms of childhood depression should be recognized by their persistence, as they are easily confused with normal child behavior. © Zahra Amiri/Unsplash

Below we list some of the most common symptoms in a case of childhood depression:

  • Mood swings, with a tendency to irritability or frequent crying;
  • Changes in sleep pattern;
  • Changes in appetite;
  • Regression in some habits (e.g. urinary or fecal incontinence after no longer using the diaper);
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of guilt without reason;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Lack of concentration in daily activities;
  • Loss of interest in playing;
  • Social isolation, especially at school;
  • Drop in school performance;
  • Psychomotor agitation;
  • Complaint of frequent pain in various parts of the body.

Yes, they are symptoms that are somewhat broad and that can be confused with normal moments for a child, but one should be aware of their frequency. If you notice that there are recurring and persistent symptoms (for more than 2 weeks), you should consult a child mental health professional for an assessment of your psychological health status.

Causes for depressive state

As we mentioned earlier, the cause for a child’s or adolescent’s depressive state can come from a traumatic situation (or at least perceived as such by the child or adolescent). The very change of school or house can trigger childhood depression.

Bullying in a school situation can also potentiate a child's depressive state. This often omits the situation with the family © Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

Depression in childhood or adolescence can arise from just a single event, but it can also be the result of a set of several situations. Some investigations have suggested that, as in adults, in some cases genetics may have some influence on the development of childhood depression. However, we believe that this factor may have more impact when also associated with environmental factors.

Thus, childhood depression can be multifactorial:

  • Genetic factors;
  • Biological factors;
  • Cognitive factors;
  • Psychosocial factors.

Diagnosis and treatment

The diagnosis of childhood depression should always be made by a specialist and using various psychological tests. The most common, given the age and lack of ability of children to express themselves in words in the same way as adults, aredrawings. Sometimes it’s the way children find to communicate that something is wrong with them.

In terms of treatment, individual psychotherapy, namely using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, may be one of the options. Allied with the intervention of the family and, when necessary, of the school or other entity of the day-to-day life of the child, this type of treatment allows beneficial results for the child.

During the treatment of depression in childhood or adolescence, it is important to continue to encourage social relationships with other children or adolescents of the same age. © Charlein Gracia/Unsplash

In some cases, considered more serious, it may be necessary to resort to medication to relieve symptoms.

There is no set period for the treatment of depression in childhood or adolescence. Follow-up should be regular, but can range from months to years, depending on the seriousness of the depression in question. This process must always include a pediatrician, a psychologist and a psychiatrist who, together with parents and teachers, create the conditions for a good development of the child.

How to deal with the child/teenager

The first step is to recognize depression when it exists. With the right diagnosis and a team specialized in treatment, it is also up to parents, family members and teachers to help. Support is essential and you must:

  • Respect the child or teenager and show understanding for their feelings;
  • Praising the child or teenager for small acts and being moderate in reprimand (in particular in front of other children or adolescents);
  • Encourage the resumption of activities, without pressure;
  • Foster situations of social interaction and avoid moments of isolation.

Seeking professional help in cases of suspected childhood or adolescent depression is very important. Closing your eyes to such a situation could have more serious consequences in the future, leading to major depression, substance abuse, among other mental health problems. It is also necessary to consider suicide in childhood or adolescence, which can result from depression. We have the tools to help these types of cases (from 14 years old).If you need help talk to us.


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