Identifying the signs of depression in children, tweens and teens

The whiplash-inducing speed with which a tween can go from happy-go-lucky to on-the-floor miserable can be unnerving for the people who love them. While much of this moodiness is normal and will subside in time, some of it can be signs of something more serious.

Maryann Evers, a licensed social worker with Child and Family Services in Manchester, says in judging the difference, the best thing to do is be safe rather than sorry. “If and when you feel concerned… seek the advice of your child’s doctor,” she said.

Evers said to look for the following signs of depression:

  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Sleeping disturbances — sleeping too much, not sleeping well or avoiding sleep
  • Declining grades
  • Obsession over their body image
  • Feelings of frustration
  • An inability to complete simple tasks
  • Overwhelming guilt and feelings of worthlessness
  • A change in behavior or personality changes
  • A change in appetite — eating too much or not enough
  • Reluctance to participate in social activities
  • Anger and other frequent emotional outbursts
  • Frequent stomachaches or headaches that don't respond to treatment
  • Body aches that can't be explained or treated
  • An inability to enjoy life and a lack of interest in the future

Evers says many tweens will rotate through these symptoms routinely, so that doesn't necessarily mean they're suffering from childhood depression. But, she said, if the child's behavior lasts for more than two weeks, it could be a sign that the troubles are more than a temporary slump.

When this happens, Evers suggests asking other family members, the child's teacher, and any other adult who has frequent contact with the child for their thoughts concerning this behavior. If the behavior persists, seek help or guidance from a pediatrician, school counselor or child therapist.

Categories: Depression and Anxiety, Teens