“In children and adolescents who are depressed, you may notice more irritability and loss of interest rather than just sadness or a depressed mood,” said Kimberly Burkhart, a pediatric psychologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
Be alert for 11 telltale warning signs, she advises. They include changes in sleeping habits, such as sleeping too little, too much or taking long naps; avoiding or not enjoying activities they once liked; withdrawing from family and friends; trouble thinking or concentrating; and a decline in school performance.
Other warning signs include changes in appetite, weight loss or gain; fatigue or loss of energy; lack of self-confidence or self-esteem; feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness; self-harm; and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
About 5 percent of U.S. children and teens suffer from depression, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The causes can be external factors, such as stress, bullying or a traumatic event, or depression or anxiety may run in your family, according to Burkhart.
A number of treatment options are available, including several that don’t involve medication.
“One of the most effective treatments for dealing with depression in children and adolescents is cognitive behavioral therapy, which looks at the relationship among thoughts, feelings and behavior,” Burkhart said.
Other approaches include exercise and behavioral activation — where a patient’s involvement in positive activities is gradually increased.
If moderate or severe depression persists, a doctor may recommend an antidepressant, Burkhart said.