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 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
Change in Appetite
- Academic difficulties (e..g, drop in grades, not doing school work)
Loss of Energy or Fatigue
Thoughts of Death or Suicide
- Behavioral issues (e.g., getting into trouble at school, or school refusal)
Depression Treatment for Children
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.
Play therapy is to children what talk therapy is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children’s natural medium of expression, to help them share their feelings more easily through toys instead of words. Play is a child’s language and toys are the child’s words. Though children often lack the cognitive skills to express themselves with words, they are fluent in the language of play. Play therapy allows them to express themselves in the way in which they are most comfortable.
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.