What Many People Don’t Know About Depression in Kids and Teens

Can you spot the warning signs of depression in kids and teens? It often looks very different than in adults. Which of the following faces below might be feeling blue? Click on a face to find out!

Angry FaceSick FaceTired FaceSad FaceBored FaceAddicted FaceUnmotivated FaceFearful FaceDistracted FaceGrouchy FaceAshamed FaceDefiant FaceLonely FaceWithdrawn FaceHungry Face

 

Warning Signs of Depression in Kids and Teens

 

  • Sadness and hopelessness

Most people think of sadness when they think of depression. Often, people who are depressed also struggle with a sense of hopelessness toward life. Although sadness is one of the most common symptoms of depression in adults, surprisingly this is usually not the most prominent symptom of depression in kids and teens.

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  • Anger, defiance, irritability

Anger is one of the most common symptoms of depression in kids and teens. Youth who are depressed often appear angry and irritable, and it’s easy for adults to misread these cues and get into a pattern of argument and punishment with depressed children and teenagers. One teenager confided that she had been feeling suicidal but did not know how to share it with anyone. Instead, she just ended up fighting a lot with her parents. Fortunately, a friend eventually noticed something was wrong. The teen’s parents took a completely different approach once they realized what their daughter was really going through.

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  • Physical symptoms: feeling “sick,” sleep disturbances, changes in appetite

Depression in kids and teens often shows up as physical symptoms. When young people feel bad emotionally, they often describe it as feeling bad in their bodies. Children and adolescents may complain of mysterious headaches and stomachaches. They may have a hard time falling asleep at night, or they may have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. They may feel tired all the time. Depression can also cause changes in appetite, causing noticeable weight gain or weight loss.

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  • Withdrawal, loneliness, boredom, lack of motivation, lack of focus, addiction

Many kids and teens describe their experience of depression as feeling “blah.” Depression can hamper a child or teen’s ability to focus, and it can also cause a lack of motivation. Kids and teens may find it hard to complete homework and chores.  They also may withdraw into their rooms, isolate themselves, or numb out through activities such as video games, TV, or substance use. Parents sometimes mistake these symptoms of depression as laziness, irresponsibility, or defiance of family rules.

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  • Shame and fearfulness

Sometimes kids and teens who are struggling with depression can appear very sensitive to criticism and failure. Depressed youth often wrestle with feelings of worthlessness, which can make them fearful of not meeting their own perfectionist standards. Although anxiety itself is not a symptom of depression, depression and anxiety frequently go hand in hand.

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What Can You Do?

The truth is that all of the feelings in the graphic above can be potential symptoms of depression in kids and teens. If you think a child or teen might be depressed, talk to them about their feelings and get professional help.

 

For More Information

  • NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health
  • Right-click to download the infographic here: “Many Faces of Depression

Parent Impact: Intensive Therapeutic Training Program for Christian Parents | Joy Wong Liu, M.A., LMFT

Parent Impact: Intensive Therapeutic Training Program for Christian Parents | Joy Wong Liu, M.A., LMFT.

This intensive will be starting September, 2014.  Courses will be offered in two locations, Christian Counseling Centers’ Hayward and Fremont Offices.  Click the link above to find out more!

You can also download the flyer here: Parent Impact Flyer Sept 2014.

[Photo Credit: Modified from “Serenity” by Sandeep Pawar.  Used by permission via Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0]

How to Stop Bullying Before it Starts: The Math of Human Relationships

[Photo Credit: Photo modified from “India Black and White” by anthony kelly, used via Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0]

Much has been written about how to deal with bullying once it has been discovered. But what can adults do to actively prevent bullying from occurring in the first place? This post is a response to the inspiring example of one math teacher in a recent Reader’s Digest article. Here’s a link to the original story; it’s definitely worth a read: Continue reading

Surviving and Thriving (for Parents and Teachers) | Joy Wong Liu, M.A., LMFT

I currently lead a consultation and support group for parents and teachers at my Hayward office. We will be meeting monthly at least until June, 2014. If there is enough interest, the group will be extended further. Click the link below for more information.

Surviving and Thriving (for Parents and Teachers) | Joy Wong Liu, M.A., LMFT.

[Photo credit: “Don Bosco – 3” by Tawheed Manzoor, used via Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0]