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What Do You Know About Childhood Depression?

Depression in Children & Adolescents

In America today, the word depression is familiar to most people because of the frequency with which it is seen and experienced among adults; however, in recent years it has been widely recognized and accepted that children as well may experience this mood disturbance. It appears that although childhood and adult depression are obviously similar, they are not identical; childhood depression has an entity all its own.

Mood disturbances are normal for children, but when normal patterns of eating, sleeping, working or playing are disrupted by the intensity of mood, it is essential to try to discover and treat the source of the problem. If left unattended, it may become a seed bed for future depressive episodes of even greater intensity.

Depression may strike a young person of any age--infant to adolescent--affecting the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual areas of his life; however, with proper, loving care the problem is usually reversed and restoration to normal childhood behavior occurs with a short period of time.

Do You Know . . .


Symptoms of Childhood Depression

While there is no universally accepted diagnostic standard for depression in children, several basic symptoms are accepted as identifiable with the problem:

- Sad or unhappy appearance
- Antisocial behavior
- Desires to spend time alone in his room
- Lack of interest/pleasure in normal activities
- Lack of energy
- Frequent physical complaints
- Feelings of being unloved or rejected
- Refusal to accept love or comfort
- Low self-esteem
- Hyperactivity
- Aggressive behavior
- Sleep or appetite disturbances
- Separation anxiety
- Severe anxiety
- Preoccupation with morbid ideas
- Intense negativity
- Problems in school
- Truancy (in teens)
- Self-destructive behavior
- Forgetfulness
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Irritability seems to be the most dominant symptom in children ages five through twelve.

Interestingly, the developmental level of the child seems to have the greatest effect on the way clinical depression manifests itself.

Most of these symptoms may be seen in most children at one time or another. When isolated and brief in duration, the symptoms do not signal a serious problem but when a cluster of them exists over a period of four or more weeks, the presence of depression is indicated.

Causes of Depression in Youth

This problem may result from several causes. The primary sources are believed to be feelings of being unloved or unwanted, and feelings of loss or of rejection. These may be due to a divorce, separation, death of a loved one or pet, or moving to a new location. Often the child is misperceiving what is happening in his environment. Other common causes include: inability to measure up to parental expectations; grief; emotional, physical or sexual abuse; adjustment disorders; physical or spiritual problems.


Treatment usually includes working with the parents, and often teachers, as well as the child or adolescent, in an attempt to alter or correct conditions in the home, in the classroom, or the social environment. This will usually alleviate the depression. If not, it is necessary to work with the family physician to investigate the possibility of an underlying biological cause, such as allergies, a chemical imbalance, a thyroid condition or the onset of puberty.

Christian Counseling & Educational Services is ready to help young people and their parents deal with the child's problems. Call us for more information or to make an appointment: 717.630.2255

Read Dr. Shorb's article "What Do You Know About Depression?"

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We are a team of experienced counselors that are here to help you. Our staff has a diverse set of abilities and specialties in order to assist clients with a wide variety of needs. To schedule an appointment or to get more information, please call our Hanover, PA office at 717.630.2255. (Learn more about our Christian counseling services).

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