Depression is often difficult to diagnose in children. Children may manifest similar depressive symptoms as adults such as excessive sleep or loss of appetite or they may seem more irritable and angry.
They may begin to isolate themselves from friends and their school grades may decline significantly. Depression often occurs when a child feels powerless and helpless in their environment. Therapy may focus on helping children develop the resources to feel more “in control” of themselves and their surroundings. Family therapy is often an important component of treatment in order to identify and change maladaptive family relationships.
People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms (see below for a list of symptoms) can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression. Symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Major depression is characterized by symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once or several times in a lifetime.
Dysthymia involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, the individual may be overactive, overtalkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state.
Contact Behavior Therapy of New York to help your child reduce depression.