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 Parenting.com, 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.
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