Child and Adolescent Depression
What is Depression?
Depression effects one in three adolescents and ranges from mild to severe depression. The adolescent years can be tough with many challenges for families as well as adolescents themselves. Although they may experience frustration and sadness relating to disappointing school or athletic performance or setbacks in their social and romantic lives, if you notice prolonged periods of melancholy or sadness, your child may have depression.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is caused by one or more of the following; psychological factors such as a negative or pessimistic outlook on life, biochemical imbalance in the brain or distressing life events. If other members of the family suffer from depression it is more likely that your child will be at risk of developing depression.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
- Withdrawing from friends and activities that they once loved to do
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Change in eating habits, increase or decrease in weight
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness for a prolonged period of time
- Feeling an overwhelming sense of worthlessness
- Feelings of irritability and angry outbursts
- Reckless and risk taking behaviour that could be life threatening
- Significant drop in grades
- Neglect of appearance and personal hygiene
- Self harming behaviours
- Substance abuse
- Difficulties with authority figures
- Inability to think clearly and make decisions
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Preoccupation with thoughts, actions or statements of death and suicide
Types of Depression
- Mild or Situational: Tends to be brought on by a specific life event or transition (parents' divorce, a death in the family, traumatic experience). Dissipates over a period of time and is more likely to ebb and flow.
- Clinical Depression: Differs from mild or situational depression as it typically does not have a clear cause for depression. May last for short or long periods of times with frequent thoughts of suicide.
- Bi-Polar Disorder: Has intervals of intense highs and lows. Highs often are periods of reduced sleep and high levels of productivity with feelings of invincibility and grandiose ideas. The individual may also express extreme irritability, engage in risk-taking behaviours and speak very quickly as if they cannot get thoughts and words out fast enough.
What to do if your Child is Depressed?
As a parent you are the most important support your child can have while they are going through a difficult time. Listen to them without giving them advice or lecturing them. Ask them how they feel and what you can do. Other important aspects to consider are ensuring that your child is eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in regular physical exercise. Nutrition plays an important role in depression. Limit or eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks from your child's diet and focus on family meals with whole foods instead of processed fast foods. Along with the physical benefits of exercise, studies have found it reduces depression, increases self-esteem and improves concentration and memory.
If you are concerned that your child is depressed take them to their GP immediately. There are significant risks to being depressed, the most serious being suicide. Their GP can rule out any physical causes for your child's feelings or behaviours.
Psychotherapy can provide a safe place for your child to explore their feelings and talk about painful events and experiences. It can assist your child to develop more effective skills and ways to cope with their emotions while feeling validated and supported by their counsellor. Another important form of treatment is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which emphasises becoming aware of thought patterns, how it impacts on behaviours and how to change those thoughts into healthier, more realistic thoughts.
If your child or adolescent is experiencing depression, one way to seek support is through a Psychologist or Counsellor. If you would like support for your child contact Diane McGeachy.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist
Accredited Gestalt Psychotherapist
Hobart Counselling Centre
2/221 Liverpool Street
Hobart TAS 7000