Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression
While those suffering from depression may exhibit a tremendous number of symptoms, depression is defined as “a state of aversion to activity and low mood”. Patients may exhibit many of the following symptoms:
- A feeling of anxiety.
- A feeling of worthlessness.
- Excessive sleeping.
- Gastrointestinal problems that are resistant to treatment.
- Loss of appetite.
- Tendency toward overeating.
- Problems concentrating.
Depression in Children
Can Children Really Suffer From Depression?
Just because a child seems depressed or sad, does not necessarily mean that they have depression. But if many of the symptoms mentioned above become persistent, there may be cause for concern. If these symptoms interfere with schoolwork, social interactions or affect normal family relationships, it may indicate that he or she has the medical illness called depression. While alarming, this is a disease which is eminently treatable.
How Can I Tell if My Child is Depressed?
The symptoms of depression in children vary greatly from patient to patient and may vary in severity as well. They include but are not limited to:
- Irritability or anger.
- Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness.
- Social withdrawal.
- Increased sensitivity to rejection.
- Changes in appetite -- either increased or decreased.
- Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep.
- Vocal outbursts or crying.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Fatigue and low energy.
- Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment.
- Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Impaired thinking or concentration.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Alarmingly, these symptoms can often lead the adolescent (over the age of 12) to attempt suicide. These attempts are more common in girls than in boys.
Which Children Get Depressed?
It is estimated that 2.5% of children in the U.S. suffer from depression. Depression is significantly more common in boys under the age of 10. But by age 16, girls have a greater incidence of depression. Depression can be caused by any number of factors including genetic and familial tendency, biochemical disturbances or some dramatic change in life events or physical health. Depression is a disease that will not dissipate until properly diagnosed and treated.
Can Depression in Children Be Prevented?
While genetics and family history are major causative factors, children from homes that are dysfunctional or conflicted and children from homes where there is alcohol and drug abuse tend to be at greater risk of depression.
How is the Diagnosis Made?
If your child has symptoms of depression that last for more than two weeks and are not visibly improving, and all physical illnesses have been ruled out, you should seek the care of a mental healthcare professional. While there are no tests for depression per se, the healthcare professional will do extensive interviews with the child in order to make a complete diagnosis.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Treatment options for children with depression are similar to those for adults, including psychotherapy (counseling) and medicine. Your child's doctor may suggest psychotherapy first, and consider antidepressant medicine as an additional option if there is no significant improvement.