Statistics indicate that nearly 3 to 5 percent of children and adolescents are affected by major depression and around 15% of children and adolescents demonstrate some symptoms of depression at any given point in time. Depression in children is more prevalent after puberty and girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression by the age of 14 as compared to boys.
Depression can be a challenging condition as it can negatively impair growth, development, personal relationships and performance. In some cases, it can also lead to suicidal behavior. Many children who suffer from depression face other health issues such as obesity, smoking, heart disease and physical inactivity. The extent of damage that this disease can cause highlights the importance of preventing and treating it effectively.
One of the most common problems associated with the management and prevention of depression in children is the fact that it is often misunderstood. People tend to think that children cannot suffer from depression and that is why it becomes challenging to diagnose the disease since it is difficult to differentiate normal hormonal changes in children and actual depression.
Some of the most common signs of depression in children include anxiety, clingy behavior, digestive problems, frequent tantrums, low energy levels, lack of concentration, insomnia, oversleeping, sulking, weight loss, memory loss, frequent demonstration of troublesome behavior, lack of interest in going to school, lack of overall excitement and sadness.
In order to gauge whether a child is in depression, it is important to evaluate his or her external environment. Bullying can often be a major cause of depression as demonstrated by a study conducted by the British National Child Development which indicates that bullying can result in long term physical and mental damage and can also lead to depression. Bullying can also have a negative impact on the child’s social and mental health.
Healthcare providers must be able to distinguish between major depression (which lasts around two weeks and can happen more than once in a child’s life) or dysthymia (which is less severe but chronic as it typically lasts for at least two years). People close to children, including parents, grandparents, close family friends and other family members, need to be more aware of what is happening in their child’s life and if there are any sudden changes in the child’s behavior or mood that should be a cause for concern. These indicators should not be ignored as this disease can be detrimental to the child’s health and future well-being.