Now, here’s a statistic that should cause us all to be a bit concerned. According to KidsHealth.org, there are approximately 17 million people in the United States who suffer with depression. What may be even more alarming is that reportedly, one in every 33 children and one in every eight teenagers battle with depression as well. If depression is left untreated, it can lead to anything from poor school performance to suicide attempts. Plus, one of the biggest concerns with this health issue is that sometimes it goes unnoticed and untreated until it’s too late.
So, what are some of the ways to recognize some of the signs of stress and depression in young children so that you can know what to look for as it relates to your own kids? We have a list of five symptoms of depression that you should definitely consult a doctor or therapist about if you start to notice them in your son or daughter below:
They are very sad (all of the time). We all have times when some days are better than others. However, if you notice that your child is very sad or has been crying a lot and often and when you ask them what’s wrong they are unable to provide you with a definitive answer and their low mood goes on for days on end, this is definitely a symptom to take special note of.
They have a loss of appetite. Children may not always like what they’re given to eat, but it’s rare that they don’t have an appetite. If your child finds an excuse to not eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, even when you serve their favorite kinds of foods, this is another sign that they may be battling, on some level, with depression.
They are always tired. How many children do you know who would rather go to bed early than stay up with everyone else? It’s one thing if your child has had a really busy day and they turn in early due to complete exhaustion. It’s another matter entirely if they would prefer to go to bed right after school and they can easily sleep until the following morning, night after night. A lot of people who struggle with depression use sleep as an escape mechanism (because if you’re not awake, you tend not to think so much). A child needs between 8-12 hours of sleep per night based on their age. If your child is getting more than that, all of the time, speak with your physician about it.
They isolate themselves. If you’ve ever done any research on child therapy, you might have read that any time that a child spends a lot of time alone, especially if they would prefer to be in a dark room or they are not really doing anything other than lying on the bed or looking out of the window, they could be dealing with some level of depression. Even shy children tend to want some kind of attention from those they are comfortable with and so if your child always asks to be alone, take this as another telltale depression sign.
They drastically change their appearance. When we don’t feel happy, it tends to show in how we look. If you notice drastic changes in your child’s appearance (they wear dark clothes all of the time, they have made attempts to change their hair on their own or they have even lost a significant amount of weight), this is another red flag. Don’t assume that they are simply “doing what kids do”. Depression can oftentimes be an overwhelming emotion that they don’t know how to properly convey. So, make sure to look for the signs, ask them how they are feeling and if necessary, get them the help that they need. Depression can be treated once it’s diagnosed and that comes first with noticing the signs and then sharing them with a professional that you trust.