Is your child depressed?

Over 20 million Americans are estimated by recent studies to suffer from mood disorders.

Depression is one of the mood disorders most commonly diagnosed. Childhood depression is a debilitating illness believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that may be triggered by trauma, negative thought processes or stressful daily events.

Depression is more difficult to identify in our youth, yet just as devastating as what an adult may experience. Young people lack the maturity, and in some cases verbal skills, of their adult counterpart to articulate emotional experiences and difficulties. The warning signs of depression may go unrecognized or be dismissed as “a phase” they will soon grow out of for younger children, or as an example of “teenage angst” in adolescents.

Many concerned parents find themselves baffled by the mood and behavior changes they have witnessed in their child. This only furthers the increasing sense of helplessness associated with depression and those who have to watch a loved one battle a mood disorder. Parents are usually at a loss as to how to provide support and get help, which may lead to increased frustration and conflict in the family, particularly with adolescents.

Possible signs and symptoms of childhood depression include, but are not limited to:

• More frequent tearfulness

• Noticeable changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns

• Prolonged time spent alone (usually in the child’s bedroom)

• Irritability or increased anger

• Declining or abrupt changes in school performance

• Negativity about self and/or others

• Increased parental conflict and arguments

• Less time spent with family and friends

• Tired and lethargic

• Alcohol or substance abuse

• Statements about suicide or reckless behavior

If your son or daughter is suffering from symptoms of childhood depression, then contact a licensed mental health provider to receive professional help. Depression is a matter of life and death. If there is a family history of depression or your child has made threats of suicide, then don’t postpone getting the help your loved one requires.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a private practice psychotherapist who provides individual, couple and family counseling in Federal Way. Contact: (253) 653-0168.

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