Children, just like adults, can get cranky, feel sad, or have negative thoughts. It’s part of life. However, childhood depression is much more than being sad. It is a serious medical condition that has a negative effect on a child’s life.

Depressed children have difficulty connecting with family and friends, concentrating, and enjoying normal daily activities.

Childhood depression is often not recognized by parents because they see their behavior as transient moodiness. To make it more difficult, many children will deny that they have a problem and insist that they are fine.

However, symptoms that last for several weeks may be a sign of depression that shouldn’t be ignored.

Recognizing the signs and encouraging your child to get screened for depression can prevent further complications from developing.

Untreated depression in children can follow them into their teen and adult years and result in some severe consequences, such as:

• Substance abuse
• Academic failure
• Reckless or risky behavior
• Problems with relationships
• Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Symptoms of Childhood Depression

If symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, they might be signs of depression. Even though not all children have the same set of symptoms, there are some common moods and behaviors that could be signs that shouldn’t be overlooked.

• Changes in sleep patterns including having nightmares
• Difficulty concentrating and remembering
• Recent onset of increased aggression
• Excessive restlessness
• Prolonged unhappiness
• Doesn’t want to be around friends or family
• Lack of energy
• Trouble fitting in with other children at school
• Speaks about themselves in a negative way
• Feeling fearful, guilty, or anxious
• Frequent complaints of headaches and stomachaches without a medical cause
• Loss of interest in doing fun things
• Weight or appetite changes

Causes of Childhood Depression

Depression is not anyone’s fault and is not a sign of weakness. As a parent of a depressed child, it is essential to keep this in mind.

Many different factors may contribute to depression in children, including:

• Genetics or family history
• Hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalances
• Unstable or stressful home environment
• Bullying or rejection at school
Divorce or moving
• Traumatic events such as assault or abuse

Diagnostic Procedures

Start by speaking with your child’s pediatrician and discuss your concerns. The doctor can run tests to rule out any physical issues that could be causing or contributing to the symptoms you are seeing.

A comprehensive medical evaluation can identify an underlying medical condition that could be mimicking signs of depression, such as:

• Hypothyroidism
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Undiagnosed anemia

These conditions are treatable. If addressed promptly, they should improve the symptoms of depression.

Some of the tools used by medical health professionals include:

• Questionnaires for parents and children
• Collection of personal information
• Discussions with teachers, classmates, and friends

There are times that underlying conditions such as OCD and ADHD may contribute to depression. The steps above can help uncover these types of disorders and then appropriate treatment can be followed. .

Treatment Options

The specific treatment plan will depend upon the severity and nature of your child’s depression.

Options vary from psychotherapy, medications, lifestyle changes, or a combination. Many parents are wary of medicating their children and are concerned about the side effects of the medicines.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It’s important to note that it isn’t always necessary to treat depression with medication. Mild to moderate depression is often treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as the first line of treatment.

It is often preferred because it can help patients identify and cope with challenges quickly.

CBT is a type of talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. The mental health professional works with the patient to help them become aware of negative thinking, learn to see situations more clearly and respond in more effective ways.

The age of the child plays a role in what type of treatment is most appropriate. For example, children under the age of 10 are often treated with psychodynamic psychotherapy, play therapy, and behavior therapy.

Moderate to severe depression is often treated with a combination of medication and CBT.


If your child’s mental health professional recommends an antidepressant, rest assured that their use is carefully monitored to minimize side effects.

Parents and doctors should monitor and be aware of signs of severe side effects. The antidepressants approved for children include:

• Prozac (fluoxetine)
• Cymbalta (duloxetine)
• Zoloft (sertraline).

Lifestyle Changes

For more mild cases of depression, changes in lifestyle can be effective in treating depression. Some of the changes include:

• Following a regular exercise schedule
• Learning relaxation techniques
• Finding ways to manage stress
• Building a strong social support system
• Maintaining a healthy diet
• Ensuring your child gets enough sleep

Managing Your Expectations

Remember that children are not mini-adults. They are changing, developing, and growing. Because of this, their symptoms can lessen and intensify during treatment.

As trying as it can be as a parent on the receiving end, you need to do your best to stay focused and calm.

Healing takes time and can’t be fixed overnight. With patience and proper treatment, your child can grow up healthy and well.

Author's Bio: 

Success Coach, Business Development Consultant, Strategist,Blogger, Traveller, Motivational Writer & Speaker