The Challenges of Identifying and Treating Childhood Depression

Widespread awareness of childhood depression is still lacking, but as more parents and teachers become attuned to its prevalence, hopefully more of the kids who need help will start to receive it. Sarah Ludwig is a writer and parent of a daughter with childhood depression. In a recent feature for CNN and, she shares how she realized her 7-year-old was depressed, and talks about the facts, challenges, and misperceptions that often accompany childhood depression.

Firstly, it’s much more common than many think. One in twenty kids (that’s one child in every elementary classroom) are estimated to have depression. Many times, it’s triggered by a traumatic event, such as parent’s divorce, moving or changing schools, or sickness. However, it’s more difficult to diagnose in kids than it is in adults. For one thing, they often don’t have the self-awareness to describe their feelings of sadness or despair. Also, the symptoms of depression in children aren’t the same as the symptoms in adults. While sadness and listlessness are often present, irritability is one of the most common symptoms. Then there’s the fact that it regularly coincides with other challenges, including ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and learning disorders.

It’s important to catch childhood depression as soon as possible. Untreated depression, at any age, can create even more ingrained, long term problems, and letting childhood depression go until puberty can be especially dangerous. It’s important for kids to learn coping strategies before their hormones start kicking in. In terms of treatment, the good thing is that kids are typically very responsive to therapy. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to address immediate needs, but these medications can have dangerous mental health side effects and should never be used as the sole form of treatment. The most important thing is to be aware of the symptoms of childhood depression, and be willing to step in and ensure kids get help as soon as possible.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • fiona


    July 7th, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    I am greatly concerned after having read this because my first child is just a couple of months old and I know nothing about dealing with kids and their problems.Things will,hopefully,fall into place.In the mean time,any help would be much appreciated.

  • Shannon


    July 8th, 2010 at 4:39 AM

    Lots of readers are probably wonndering what kids have to be depressed about, why this is somehting that we even need to look for in them.

  • Wallace F.

    Wallace F.

    July 8th, 2010 at 7:09 AM

    ^^ There is not a lot to do,so relax first! All that you need to do is to make sure your child will have at least a few good friends at school and is not a loner. Also, you need to see to it that your child is not a bully or is not being a silent bully because this can also lead to depression in a child. I’m no expert but these things will be a good start as a parent for you.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on