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How to Spot Depression in Children



children in a school bus smiling with the window down

Children experience the same spectrum of emotions as adults. It’s not unusual for them to go through happy times and bad moods.

Negative moods and emotions should be fleeting. When sadness, mood swings, and off behaviors become a constant, there’s a possibility that your child could be experiencing depression. Getting your child the proper help to overcome their obstacles is key to preventing issues from becoming larger problems. 

Sadness or Mood Changes

Children are resilient when it comes to their moods. They can be angry or upset and within minutes have the ability to bounce back. 

One sign of depression in children is an ongoing sadness or sense of unhappiness. A one-off day isn’t anything to sound the alarms over, but if you’re noticing it consistently, it’s worth exploring. 

Similarly, if your child is having increased tantrums or angry outbursts, they could be misbehaving from underlying depression. Adults more often demonstrate sadness, but children can display irritability and moodiness as well. 

Lack of Energy

Struggling with depression can be an energy drain, especially in children. Not knowing what is going on or how to fully process their feelings can make their little minds and bodies exhausted. 

Basic daily tasks may take a great deal of effort, to the point where they don’t want to complete them or feel like they can’t. With less energy, there’s less to spend on school tasks, social engagements, hobbies, or any other activities they’re used to participating in. 

Less Joy

When adults experience depression, there is usually a behavior change characterized by loss of interest or less joy. A similar symptom is often present with children, although it may be less noticeable. 

If your child is showing less excitement with activities they usually love or is demonstrating withdrawn behavior from friends, it could be a red flag. Likes and dislikes are fleeting during the younger years, but drastic changes should be checked into. 

Routine Changes

If you’re noticing key changes to your child’s routine, it’s worth paying attention to. This can include appetite or sleeping behaviors. 

Is your child eating more than usual? Are they skipping meals frequently or eating less comparatively? Have they had a significant change in weight more than outgrowing the baby weight? Any of these can be signs of depression. 

Sleep can be similarly affected by depression. They may be sleeping more than usual, sleeping less hours, having a difficult time falling asleep, or struggling to stay sleeping. Sleep can be a symptom of depression, but it can also be a driving factor for developing depression if not addressed.

Academic Performance Is Decreasing

Another sign of depression that my be overlooked is a decline in academic performance. If a child is struggling in school, they may experience one bad grade. From there, they develop a newfound sense of stress and anxiety, which can cause further strain on grades. 

Especially among middle school or high school students, performance stress is a prevalent obstacle that many face on a daily basis. As a parent, you should be mindful of your child’s grades not only for achievement, but also for mental health purposes.

Unexplained Aches and Pains

When your child is struggling with depression, they may not be able to explain the phenomenon if they don’t understand their emotions. Unexplained aches and pains may be a sign that there’s something going on.

Headaches are a main issue among school-aged children, in addition to chronic stomach aches. If your child is missing school, or trying to stay home due to consistent aches or not feeling well, they might be giving you a sign. 

If you’re concerned that your child may be struggling with depression, learning more about their situation and understanding how to help them is a first step to take. Counseling for depression can help. Contact us to schedule an introductory session. 


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