At any given point in time, approximately one in five children or adolescents is affected by depression, but many of these children go undiagnosed and untreated for this illness.
Childhood depression has been associated with failure in school, conduct disorders and delinquency, eating disorders, school phobia, panic attacks, and a higher risk of suicide among adolescents. If left untreated, depression can recur throughout life, leading to broken families, disrupted careers, and unfulfilled lives.
Because children and adolescents may not be able to clearly describe how they feel, they often express their problems through their behavior. Some behaviors that may signal that your child is depressed include:
- frequent sadness, tearfulness, and/or crying
- decreased interest in activities or the inability to enjoy previously favored activities
- persistent boredom or low energy
- social isolation and/or poor communications
- low self-esteem and guilt
- extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- difficulty with relationships
- frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomach aches
- frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
- poor concentration
- a major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- talk of or efforts to run away from home
- thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behaviors
If you suspect that your adolescent may be suffering from depression, here is a checklist you can share to help your child identify his or her feelings.
ADOLESCENT CHECKLIST FOR DEPRESSION
You feel sad a lot, and it doesn’t go away.
You feel guilty; you think that you’re no good, or you have no confidence.
You lose interest in ordinary pleasures like music, sports, friends, or having fun. Most of the time you’d rather be left alone.
You feel restless or tired most of the time.
You’re a nonstop partier, constantly moving around.
You get unrealistic ideas about the great things you’re going to do—things that you never really could do.
Thoughts just go racing through your head.
You think about death a lot, or thoughts about suicide pop into your head.
You seem to take pleasure in extremely dangerous activities, like reckless and high-speed
If you checked either of the last two boxes: Seek help immediately!
If you checked four boxes: You are having a tough time and may be suffering from depression or manic depression. Ask a trusted adult to get you some help from a professional.
If you checked three boxes: You may want to talk with your parent(s) about the difficulty you are having before things get worse.
If you checked on or two boxes: You’re fine! Everyone has some problems.