Do you suspect that your child is depressed? Depression may look a little different in children than in adults. While adults experiencing depression may express a sad or depressed appearance or behavior, children may become irritable or act out. Children may also withdraw socially or experience a change in appetite, meaning they eat more or less than usual. A depressed child may sleep much less or much more and may behave as if s/he is sad by “moping” or crying. Children may feel as if they are outcast or rejected by friends and family members. The types of play or activities that your child normally enjoys may not be enjoyable for him or her if depression is a problem.
What can you do if you believe your child is depressed? Seek an appointment with a doctor or therapist immediately. Your child may need an evaluation or a check-up to determine if depression is really the problem or if there is some underlying medical concern. A Master’s level therapist can diagnose depression in both children and adults, but cannot prescribe medication. If your child is diagnosed with depression, a psychiatric evaluation may be warranted. Many medications that are available for treatment of depression are not approved for use in pediatric care. Parents and caregivers should carefully research side effects of antidepressant medications before beginning treatment.