Kids can be a mystery when it comes to their emotions. So, a minor change in mood is not an automatic red flag. However, with depression in children on the rise, it’s important to know how to discern a problem more quickly. The number of children with depression rose by 24 percent between 2016 and 2019. Then, along came the pandemic — causing a more dramatic spike.
There is no one identifiable cause of depression in kids and teens. It can range from genetics to trauma to an overload of stress to the state of the world… and beyond. Therefore, again, the first giant step involves learning how to recognize if your child is depressed.
A few warning signs to watch for:
Chronic Mood Swings
The key word is chronic. Everyone has mood swings, but if they linger for weeks or even months, something else might be going on. Monitor your child for persistent displays of:
- Temper tantrums and angry outbursts
- Crying spells
- Acting out in school
- A sense of general unhappiness
Not Enjoying Activities That Once Excited Them
This is a major red flag. Everyone has hobbies or interests — and people — they look forward to. A depressed child is likely to lose interest in all of this without even knowing why. It can lead to them becoming socially isolated and then complaining about how bored they are.
Depression is exhausting. It can wear down a child and lead to noticeable fatigue. As a result, your child could be putting in less effort toward friendships, schoolwork, chores, and more. They give up easily due to a lack of energy and a concurrent loss of interest.
A child experiencing mood swings, low energy, and pervasive disinterest is probably not going to get good grades. Studies find that depression is one of the top obstacles to being engaged in class and getting above-average grades. If you’re concerned about your child’s performance at school, talk to their teachers to learn more.
These can include:
- Sleep Disturbances: Your child may have problems falling or staying asleep. In other cases, depression can lead to oversleeping. This is an insidious cycle since sleep issues are considered to be a risk factor for depression.
- Appetite Changes: They might be eating more or less and, therefore, gaining or losing weight.
- Unexplained Aches and Pains: Such discomfort frequently means headaches, muscle tension, or digestive issues.
Talking About Death
Kids can be morbid at times, but depression can bring out a tendency toward hopelessness and self-harm. Keep in mind that the second leading cause of death for kids in the 10 to 14 age range is suicide. A child fixated on death or writing poems about dying or giving away their possessions is most likely asking for help. Take immediate steps.
Your Important Next Steps
For starters, you want to talk with your child about their emotions. Let them know it’s okay to be sad and you are always here to help. Be patient with their mood and take active steps to make fun plans together. While you practice these crucial personal steps, your top priority is to talk with your child’s doctor. A physical exam can help rule out a medical health issue.
At the same time, make contact with a mental health practitioner who works with children. They will know how to assess your child for depression (or any other condition). This is a vital step toward giving your kid a chance to speak alone with the therapist. Let’s connect soon to discuss what you have been witnessing.