What is Depression in Childhood or Adolescence?

Childhood and adolescent depression is an emotional disorder that affects people under the age of 18. Like depression in adults, it is characterized by persistent feelings of low self-esteem, sadness, and hopelessness and can last for weeks or months. It is more common in the teenage years. Signs of depression in children and adolescents include irritability, loss of interest, and social isolation.

These signs may be accompanied by physical symptoms such as sleeping difficulties, digestive problems, changes in appetite, and fatigue. Successful treatment typically involves psychological counseling and medication. With treatment and support, many people recover from depression. Untreated depression in children and teenagers may have lifelong consequences.


Depression can affect children and young people of any age, including infants. This condition becomes more common with age and by adolescence, and many as 1 in 5 young people may have symptoms of depression. In childhood, boys are more commonly affected than girls, but during puberty, more girls are often affected than boys. The causes of depression are not clear, but it is probable that several factors combine to cause depression. These include stressful life events, a lack of social support, changes in brain chemicals, and unstable family or social circumstances. Children who have a close family member with depression are more likely to also develop depression. Some children with ongoing medical issues are more likely to develop depression. Infants born to women who experienced depression during pregnancy are more likely to show signs of depression.


Symptoms of depression vary with age. Small children may express depression by uncontrollable crying or reluctance to eat or play. They may develop slower than other children and seem less interactive than other children. School-aged children appear impulsive, easily frustrated, and sometimes have social and learning difficulties. They may develop self-harming behavior. Symptoms in teenagers can sometimes be difficult to recognize but include a persistently low mood, and a lack of energy and motivation. They may experience or describe feelings of inner emptiness, insecurity, and trouble concentrating. Teenagers also experience physical symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, stomach pain, a loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, and headaches. Their school performance may gradually get worse. Less commonly, some teenagers may develop thoughts of death or suicide.


The diagnosis is usually made by an experienced child psychologist or psychiatrist based on the symptoms described by the young person. The doctor should rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. Some blood tests can be helpful to rule out these other causes. Keeping a diary that documents the patient’s mood, sleep, energy, and thoughts might be helpful in making the diagnosis.


The treatment of depression in children and teenagers is guided by the severity of the symptoms and the circumstances of the child and their family. Treatment commonly involves psychotherapy (counseling) and sometimes medication. Counseling often involves the family and is typically focused on helping a young person learn to recognize and control their thoughts and feelings, and on teaching them healthy coping skills. Treatment is slow and steady, and it may take weeks to months until improvement is seen.


A reliable source of emotional support may help to prevent young people from developing depression. Exercise, enough sleep, and a healthy diet are also very important. Early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment are all factors that can reduce the chance of depression in childhood becoming a lifelong condition.

Other names for depression in childhood or adolescence

  • Depression in adolescence
  • Depression in children
  • Depression in teenagers
  • Juvenile depression

**What is⁣ Depression in Childhood or ‍Adolescence?**


Depression in children and adolescents is a serious mental health condition that involves ‍persistent sadness, ⁣loss of interest in ‌activities, and impaired functioning in various​ aspects of life. It is distinct from sadness that typically accompanies life events or developmental transitions.


* Persistently low⁢ mood ⁤or irritability

* Loss of interest ‍or pleasure ⁤in activities

* ⁣Changes in appetite or weight

* Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia)

* Fatigue or lack of energy

* Difficulty concentrating or making⁢ decisions

* ⁢Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

* Suicidal thoughts‍ or self-harm behaviors


The exact cause of childhood depression is unknown, but it is believed to be a complex interplay of genetic, biological, environmental, ⁣and psychological factors. Possible contributing factors include:

* **Genetics:** Family‍ history of depression increases the‌ risk.

* **Brain chemistry:** Imbalances ⁢in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin ​and norepinephrine, may⁣ play a role.

* **Environmental stressors:** ⁣Traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or ⁢bullying,⁤ can trigger depression.

* **Physical health⁤ conditions:** Chronic medical conditions, ‍such as asthma or cancer, can increase the risk of depression.

* ⁢**Social isolation:** Lack of close⁣ friends or family support ⁢can‍ contribute to‍ feelings ​of loneliness and sadness.


*⁤ **Major depressive disorder:** This is a persistent ‌and severe form of depression that meets certain⁤ diagnostic criteria.

* **Persistent ⁤depressive disorder (PDD):** This involves chronic symptoms of ‌depression that are⁢ less‌ severe‍ than major depressive disorder but persist for at least two years.

* **Seasonal‌ affective disorder (SAD):** This type of depression occurs during the winter⁤ months due to reduced sunlight exposure.

* **Bipolar disorder:** A mental​ health condition ⁣characterized by‌ alternating episodes of depression and mania or hypomania.


Depression in children and adolescents is diagnosed‍ through ​a comprehensive evaluation, including:

* Physical examination to rule out any medical conditions

* Psychiatric assessment to evaluate symptoms and risk factors

* ⁤Psychological testing to assess mood, cognitive functioning, and emotional regulation


Treatment for childhood⁤ depression typically ⁣involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

* **Psychotherapy:** Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy ‍(IPT) are effective therapies that focus on changing negative thought patterns, ⁤improving communication skills, and coping with stressors.

* **Medication:** Antidepressants, ⁤such as selective serotonin ‌reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help regulate brain chemistry and ‌alleviate symptoms.

* ‍**Lifestyle⁢ modifications:** Regular exercise, healthy sleep⁢ habits, and⁣ a ‍nutritious diet can support mental health.

*⁣ **Support systems:** Family, friends, and school counselors can provide ‍emotional support and practical assistance.

**Key Points:**

* Depression in children and adolescents is a serious mental health‌ condition that ‌requires professional treatment.

* Symptoms may include⁤ persistent sadness, loss of interest, changes in appetite or sleep, ​and thoughts of self-harm.

* Causes are complex and involve genetic,‌ biological, environmental, and ‍psychological⁣ factors.

*​ Treatment typically involves psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle modifications, and support systems.

* Early diagnosis and intervention are⁤ crucial for improving ​outcomes‌ and ‍preventing ⁤long-term⁢ effects on mental health and well-being.


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