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Q4. Childhood depression

The fact that a child feels sad, lonely, or irritable does not mean he or she has childhood depression. Childhood depression is persistent sadness. When it occurs, the child feels alone, hopeless, helpless, and worthless. When this type of sadness is unending, it disrupts every part of the child's life. It interferes with the child's daily activities, schoolwork, and peer relationships. It can also affect the life of each family member.


It could be caused by any combination of factors that relate to physical health, life events, family history, environment, genetic vulnerability, and biochemical disturbance.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of childhood depression may vary. It depends on the child and his or her particular mood disorder. Common ones include:
Changes in appetite -- either increased appetite or decreased
Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep
Continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Difficulty concentrating
Fatigue and low energy
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Impaired thinking or concentration
Increased sensitivity to rejection
Irritability or anger
Physical complaints (such as stomachaches or headaches) that do not respond to treatment
Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school or during extracurricular activities, or when involved with hobbies or other interests
Social withdrawal
Thoughts of death or suicide
Vocal outbursts or crying
Not all children have all of the symptoms of childhood depression. In fact, kids have different symptoms of childhood depression at different times and in different settings.


Studies show that, at any point in time, 10% to 15% of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. A child has an increased chance of childhood depression if he or she has a family history of depression, particularly a parent who had depression at an early age. Once a child experiences major depression, he or she is at risk of developing another depression within the next five years.


Psychotherapy first and antidepressant medicine as an additional option if symptoms are severe or if there is no significant improvement with psychotherapy alone.
However, antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. 

Long-Term Outlook

Studies have found that first-time episodes of childhood depression occur at younger ages than previously thought. And, as in adults, depression may reoccur later in life.
Depression often occurs at the same time as other physical illnesses. Because studies have shown that depression may precede more serious mental illness later in life, diagnosis, early treatment, and close monitoring are crucial.

* * *

Childhood depression is a state where a child has a persistent feeling of sadness and helplessness. The symptoms become disruptive and interfere with the normal life of the child. Childhood depression can be assessed, diagnosed, and effectively treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. Left untreated, childhood depression is a serious depressive disorder that can lead to suicide.


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