The symptoms of depression are often subtle at first. They may occur suddenly or happen slowly over time. It can be hard to
recognize that symptoms may be connected and that your child might have
- Unexplained aches and pains, such as headaches or stomach
sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Changes in eating habits that lead
to weight gain or loss or not making expected weight gains
- Constant tiredness, lack of
- Body movements that seem slow, restless, or agitated
Mental or emotional symptoms
- Irritability or temper
- Difficulty thinking and making decisions
- Having low
self-esteem, being self-critical, and/or feeling that others are unfairly critical
- Feelings of guilt and
- Social withdrawal, such as lack of interest in
- Anxiety, such as worrying too much or fearing
separation from a parent
- Thinking about death or feeling suicidal
It's important to watch for
warning signs of suicide in your child or teen. These
signs may change with age. Warning signs of suicide in children and teens may
include preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a
Depression can have symptoms that are similar to those caused by
Less common symptoms
depressed children may also have other symptoms, such as:
- Hearing voices that aren't there (hallucinations). This is more common in young children.
- Having false but firmly held
beliefs (delusions). This is more common in teens.
Normal moodiness vs. depression
the difference between normal moodiness and symptoms of depression can be
hard. Occasional feelings of sadness or irritability are normal. They
allow the child to process grief or cope with the challenges of life.
example, grieving (bereavement) is a normal response to loss, such as the
death of a family member or even the death a pet, loss of a friendship, or
parents' divorce. After a severe loss, a child may remain sad for a longer
period of time.
But when these emotions do not go away or begin to interfere
with the young person's life, he or she may need treatment.
Some children who are first diagnosed with
depression are later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Children or teens with
bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings between depression and bouts of
mania (very high energy, agitation, or irritability).
It can be hard to tell the difference
bipolar disorder and depression. It is common for
children with bipolar disorder to first be diagnosed with only depression and
later to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a first manic episode.
Although depression is part of the condition, bipolar disorder requires
different treatment than depression alone.
Like depression, bipolar disorder
runs in families. So be sure to tell your doctor if your child has a family
history of bipolar disorder. For more information on bipolar disorder, see the
topic Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens.