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Recognizing Childhood Depression

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These include frequent episodes of sadness, tearfulness and crying, hopelessness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, increased irritability, anger or hostility, persistent boredom and low energy.

A child with depression may become socially isolated, have difficulty communicating, have low self-esteem and guilt, be extremely sensitive to rejection and failure and have difficulty with relationships. Frequent complaints of physical illness such as headaches or stomach aches, frequent absences from school or poor performance in school, poor concentration and a major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns are all warning signs.

Parents need to seek help if a child talks of or makes an effort to run away from home, expresses suicidal thoughts or displays self-destructive behaviors.(6)

Depression is a real illness that requires professional help. It will not go away on its own nor will a child simply outgrow it. Early diagnosis and treatment are

Treatment options include both family and individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. The use of antidepressant medications may be necessary.

Parents should first consult their child’s pediatrician and ask to be referred to a qualified mental health professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood depression.


(1) Children’s Hospital Boston: Major Depression, Oct. 11, 2011

(2) Washington University at St. Louis: Joan L. Luby, M.D., Oct. 11, 2011

(3) Child Psych: Depressed Preschool Children: The Role of Shame and Guilt,
Oct. 11, 2011

(4) Psychology Today: What Causes Depression? Oct. 11, 2011

(5) MentalHealth.net: Biology of Depression, Oct. 11, 2011

(6) American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: The Depressed Child,

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