Depression in Children

Depression is a common mental heath condition characterized by changes in mood, behavior, and functioning that persists for at least several weeks and causes difficulties in daily living. For children this might mean academic or behavioral issues at school, difficulties interacting with peers, or withdrawing from family. Depression is more than simply being in a bad mood, feeling sad, or having a negative attitude and includes other significant psychological, biological, and behavioral changes.

Depression Symptoms in Children

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Feeling worthless
  • Frequent crying
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Academic  difficulties (e..g, drop in grades, not doing school work)
  • Behavioral issues (e.g., getting into trouble at school, or school refusal)
  • Change in appetite
  • Feeling angry
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression Treatment for Children 

Psychotherapy (i.e., talk or behavioral therapy) is an effective treatment for depression in children.  For mild to moderate depression psychotherapy is recommended as a first-line treatment. For more severe cases of depression a combination of medication and psychotherapy is typically recommended.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most researched and scientifically proven psychotherapy for treating depression in children. CBT is a very practical and easy to understand treatment approach that emphasizes the here-and-now and the development of effective coping skills and strategies. In children, more emphasis is typically placed on behavioral interventions than on the development of insight.
Family therapy
Family therapy is also commonly recommended for children who might be depressed. Family therapy aims to help parents and caregivers learn how to more effectively provide support and create a less stressful environment for the child.  Individual therapy with children is more effective when parents and/or caregiver take an active role in treatment.
Certain medications (i.e., SSRIs) are commonly used to treat depression in children and like psychotherapy have been proven to be effective. While the use of medication to treat depression in children has grown steadily over the past couple of decades there remains concern regarding the safety of some medication use in children. For more information regarding the use of medications in treating depression in children click here to visit the NIMH website on the matter.

Depression Therapists for Children