What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that can cause someone to feel sad, irritable or hopeless. It may affect your sleep, appetite or relationships with others. Depression can also cause you to lose interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. In severe cases, depression can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Depression is typically diagnosed if symptoms last two weeks or longer. It should only get evaluated, diagnosed and treated by a healthcare provider. Although depression is a serious medical condition, it’s usually treatable.

Does depression affect children?

Depression can affect people of any age, including children. Although children naturally have mood swings as they grow and develop, depression is different. The disorder can affect how children interact with friends and family. It may prevent them from enjoying school, sports, hobbies or other normal childhood activities.

In children, depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Anxiety is a medical condition that causes feelings of fear, panic or worry about everyday situations. Sometimes, depression or anxiety in children gets chalked up to “growing pains.” But if you have any concerns about behavioral or mental health, talk to a healthcare provider.

How common is childhood depression and anxiety?

Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health disorders in children. About 7% of children ages 3 to 17 have anxiety; about 3% deal with depression.

Both depression and anxiety tend to be higher in older children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. An estimated 3.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 13.3% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17. An estimated 31.9% of adolescents have had an anxiety disorder.

What causes depression and anxiety in children?

Depression and anxiety in children can have many causes, including:

  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Environment (including family problems).
  • Family history (others in the family have depression).
  • Physical illness.
  • Stressful life events.

What are the signs of depression in children?

Parents should look out for the following signs of depression in children:

  • Behavioral problems at school.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
  • Lack of interest in fun activities.
  • Low energy levels or general tiredness.
  • Mood changes, such as irritability.

What are the signs of anxiety in children?

Signs of anxiety in children may include:

  • Anxiety about the future.
  • Fear of being away from a parent.
  • Physical symptoms of panic, such as sweating or dizziness.
  • Refusal to go to school or take part in social activities.
  • Worry that a parent or loved one may die.

Should I worry that my child will commit suicide?

National surveys from the government show the overall risk. In 2019, for example, nearly 9% of high school students attempted suicide at least once over the course of a year. Thinking about suicide also continued to rise from previous years . Although less common, young children do attempt suicide as well.

Watch your child closely for the warning signs of suicidal behavior, including:

  • Focus on death and dying.
  • Giving away possessions.
  • Increased risk-taking.
  • Self-destructive behavior or self-harm.
  • Social isolation.
  • Talk of suicide or hopelessness.

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