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What Can You Do to Help Your Depressed Child

What Can You Do to Help Your Depressed Child


What Can You Do to Help Your Depressed Child


For many parents, the happiness, health, and security of their children come first in their lives. Even when parents do everything within their abilities and power, however, some children struggle at being happy and healthy. They may cry a lot, or be fussy, picky with food, or unsociable. Is this a passing phase, or do you need to do something about it?

Don’t just watch your child grapple with emotional confusion and feel helpless about it. Seek help from a therapist to find out if your child is depressed. No one is too young to be depressed. Depression can affect even young babies, though they are usually diagnosed later at about 1.5 to 2 years old. Get their symptoms assessed, because depression is treatable, especially when caught early.


Pediatric Depression: It’s For Real!

About half a century ago, depression was thought to be an “adult thing.” Despondency, introverted personality, irritability, and sadness in children were regarded as a short-lived phase they would eventually outgrow. Studies today, however, reveal that these symptoms can get worse, if they are indeed symptoms of pediatric depression. So, yes, a child as young as an infant can experience depression.

Pediatric depression or child depression isn’t rare. According to the Federal Center for Mental Health Services, “as many as one in every 33 children” struggles with depression. In addition to taking away their ability to have a fun childhood, untreated depression can linger episodically into adolescence and maturity.


The Brain of a Depressed Child  

It doesn’t matter that your child is very young. They have the same risk of depression as any other person, even if they live in a supportive and loving home without distressing life experiences as a trigger. Depression can be caused by a genetic predisposition or a biological anomaly, such as uncharacteristic changes in neurotransmitters/brain chemistry.

According to research conducted by Luby, J. L. et al. of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in JAMA Psychiatry, depression can change the anatomy of children’s brains. Specifically, the gray matter, which is important in processing feelings, can be smaller and thinner in the cortex. Jim Dryden of The Source says,The brains of children who suffer clinical depression as preschoolers develop abnormally,” explaining why depressed children have difficulty controlling their emotions and moods. Luby also says that the condition can have “long-lasting effects on brain development” leading to future difficulties.


The Symptoms—Is This Your Child?

Recognizing your child’s depressive symptoms is critical. Unfortunately, spotting the signs and symptoms isn’t that easy. If you think depression can’t affect young children, it may not be “on your radar,” and it’s easy to miss it. You may not realize that not wanting to play with other children their age, inability to sleep through the night, or picking with their food could be symptoms of depression.

If they have other emotional issues, such as ADHD, ODD, or anxiety, the symptoms can also be masked or overlapping, complicating the diagnosis. Further, depressed children may exhibit symptoms that aren’t really unique to depression, such as irritability or mood swings. It’s best to bring them to a mental health professional if several of the following symptoms are observed for two months or more (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). 

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling worthless or restless
  • Frequent sadness or crying
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


Empower Yourself by Seeking Help

Childhood can be the happiest time of a person’s life. Pediatric depression can ruin that. You didn’t cause it and your child isn’t weak, but the fact remains that depressed children can be gripped by behavioral issues and their future can be filled with uncertainties, challenges, and sadness. Don’t feel helpless or hopeless yourself. It only takes a call or a text to seek the help of an experienced counselor contracted with Carolina Counseling Services Pittsboro, NC. 

Just because your child is depressed doesn’t mean they will feel this way forever. Though untreated depression can potentially persist for life, you can make a difference by promptly getting your child proper diagnosis and treatment. Your child can benefit from counseling. With the help of a therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services Pittsboro, NC, you can open the doors to many great possibilities for your child. Remember, depression is an emotional condition that can be treated.


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pittsboro, NC

Counties: Chatham, Alamance, Durham, Harnett, Lee, Moore, Orange, Randolph, Wake, NC
Areas: Pittsboro NC, Gulf NC, Hickory Mountain NC, Hadley NC, Siler City NC, Wilsonville NC, Fearrington NC, Mandale NC, Bear Creek NC, Albright NC
Zip Codes: 27312, 27344, 27207, 27228, 27256, 27559


Gail Gustafson, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 9+) Adolescents and Adults, Individuals, Couples and Families. PTSD/Trauma, EMDR, Adoption, Drug/Alcohol/Substance Abuse addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, Life Transitions, Grief and Loss, Parenting, Family, couples and marriage counseling.
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