VOLUME 4, ISSUE 7
RECOGNIZING DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
What is depression?
When children are moody, cranky, or irritable, their parents may wonder if these are normal signs of growing up or
something more serious, like depression. While it is true that all people, children and adults alike, experience
sadness and changes in mood from time to time, clinical depression is a serious disorder requiring professional
The main difference between clinical depression and normative sadness is that the symptoms of depression
interfere with the daily life of the child by causing significant distress or impairment in functioning at school, at
home, or with friends. In fact, depression is a major cause of academic difficulties, potentially leading to problems
such as poor grades or even school dropout in children who are generally bright and able to achieve. The good
news is that effective treatments are available to help children and adolescents recover from depression and go on
to live happy, healthy lives.
How do I know if my child has a problem?
Depression is often divided into two main types. The first is major depression, in which the symptoms are seen
daily for at least two weeks, and the second is dysthymic disorder, which is milder but lasts for a year or more and
is considered to be more of a chronic problem. In either case, the symptoms are similar and when present may
indicate the need for an evaluation with a child psychiatrist or psychologist. Studies show that, at any given time,
between 10% and 15% of all children and adolescents exhibit some signs of depression.
Signs of depression in children include: feeling sad or irritable most of the day nearly every day, decreased interest
in doing things that used to be enjoyable, significant change in appetite or weight (or failure to make expected
weight gains), trouble sleeping, lack of energy, restlessness or slowing down of movements, and difficulty