New guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be screened for depression annually. Because many parents often misinterpret a child’s symptoms of depression or other mood disorders as simply a phase that he or she will outgrow, it’s important to know what to look for. If you and your doctor do determine that your child is depressed, there are many treatment options that you can consider to prevent further development of the problem.
Symptoms of Depression in Children
While children can show signs of depression that are similar to the common signs of depression in adults, a child’s symptoms may be easily mistaken as poor behavior rather than a mental disorder. If your child routinely “acts out” or displays other angry behaviors, he or she could be masking depression. Other signs include constant feelings of sadness, social withdrawal, low energy and changes in eating habits.
Diagnosing Your Child for Depression
If you or your doctor suspect that your child may be depressed, it’s best to consult a mental health professional who specializes in children. Therapy sessions may include interviews with and questionnaires for you and your child. It can also be helpful to let your doctor know about any changes that teachers or friends have noticed in your child’s behavior.
Treating Childhood Depression
Treatment options for children with depression are similar to those for adults. Your doctor will likely suggest counseling sessions first, which may treat the problem. If not, there are numerous medication treatment options, like antidepressants, that your doctor may recommend. Alternatively, your child’s mental health may also be improved by getting ample exercise, eating a diet high in vitamins B and D and improving sleeping habits.