Feeling sad is a normal emotion. For children, it is no different. Now and then, they encounter experiences that make them unhappy. Typically, though, this emotion is brief. It lasts for a short time and then disappears after a while. However, it becomes quite problematic when the feeling endures for much longer than is considered normal. This is characterized as depression.
Depression is a mental illness that affects how individuals feel. It is characterized by adverse feelings of sadness, often accompanied by debilitating thoughts, low mood, dejection, complaints, loss of appetite, low energy, and many other signs.
Dr. Akmal Makhdum, a psychiatrist based in Essex in the U.K. believes that it is very important to understand childhood depression. He offers an overview of the signs, potential causes, and the types of treatment that are available to children who have this emotional disorder.
Signs of Depression
Depression is a widespread issue that can affect adults and young people. If you believe that your child is suffering from depression, it is always ideal to pinpoint symptoms early. Failing to recognize these issues at their early stages can lead to more severe and disadvantageous problems with long-term effects, cautions Dr. Akmal Makhdum.
The signs of depression in children are not entirely distinctive to the symptoms experienced by adults. However, there are some tell-tale signs of depression in children. These signs may include:
- Unhappiness that lingers for an extensive period
- Short-tempered and increasingly irritable or touchy
- Extreme exhaustion or trouble sleeping
- Disinterest in activities that used to bring joy
- Low interaction with family and friends
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
These signs are general indications that your child is suffering emotionally. Other pertinent symptoms may include expressions of worthlessness, self-criticism, eating less or overeating, weight gain or weight loss, indecisiveness, low confidence, disruptions at school, and inability to relax.
According to YoungMinds, an organization focused on supporting the mental health of young people, nearly 80,000 children and young people in the U.K. suffer from depression. This figure indicates its prevalence in the U.K. However, the question that many parents ask is: “What is causing my child to suffer from depression?”
Many assume that children have nothing to worry about and that their life is blissful. Consequently, says Dr. Akmal Makhdum, many things can increase the onset of depression in children. Life-changing events such as the loss of a loved one or significant shifts in the family, such as parents getting a divorce, can initiate feelings of sadness.
Other factors can include bullying or feelings of inadequacy at school. Experiences such as those that result in the child feeling belittled or incompetent can make them feel worthless. These experiences have lasting effects that can influence their emotional well-being.
Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse can also have adverse impacts on a child’s mental health. It can form emotional scars that lead them to feel insignificant or futile. Furthermore, a predisposition to depression or psychological health issues in the family can also lead to childhood depression.
Dr. Akmal Makhdum on the Types of Treatment Available
Childhood depression can adversely affect their overall development. If you notice that your child has become quite isolated, unhappy, and reluctant to engage in things that used to bring them joy, it is time to seek a diagnosis. Speaking to them, their teachers, or those they trust is critical to understanding the depth of their condition.
The next step is to speak with your doctor, who can connect you with a child psychologist. Here, an evaluation can be performed, which will assess your child’s mental state. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, a specialized treatment plan will be developed to help your child cultivate coping mechanisms. In many instances, education, psychotherapy, medication, and in extreme cases, hospitalization is considered. However, the form of therapy chosen is dependent on the severity of the depression.
Dr. Akmal Makhdum recognizes the prominent existence of childhood depression in the U.K. He encourages parents to converse with their children and monitor their feelings habitually. If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression, speak to your health professional about your concerns. The sooner it is diagnosed, the quicker treatment can be offered.