Most people think of depression and anxiety as an adult disorder; however, children can develop depression and suffer from anxiety as well. It becomes problematic when children are left untreated due to the lack of recognition, by caregivers, of the symptoms that accompany these disorders. This article will discuss depression and anxiety in children to better help caregivers recognize the symptoms.
When one hears the word “depression,” they often think of someone who is sad. However, depression in children and adolescents often appears as an angry and irritable mood. Children may appear defiant, noncompliant, and having a “snappy” attitude. When this happens, one often thinks of such behavior as part of normal development, having a “this too shall pass” mindset. In fact, an angry and irritable mood that last more than two weeks may be an indicator for depression. In addition, because younger children lack the verbal skills to communicate how they feel and older children may shy away from opening up about their feelings, depressed feelings are likely to be communicated behaviorally. For instance, physical complaints (e.g., headaches, stomach aches), social withdrawal, lack of interest in activities that they once found interesting, and too much or too little sleep and food consumption are other signs of depression.
Anxiety in Children
Anxiety is a natural human response that can be experienced in very different ways – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Children may develop a natural, anxious response to situations, such as switching schools, completing standardized tests, or competing in a sports game. While such a response to these situations is normal, too strong or too frequent of a response can be overwhelming and interfere greatly with a person’s daily functioning. Anxiety disorders are generally intense emotion that is out of proportion to the situation, which often interferes with one’s ability to function. When children experience problems with anxiety, they often experience excessive worry or extreme nervousness. They often worry about school, health/medical related procedures, family members, and future related events. If your child continues to talk about the same subject, this may be an indicator that something is bothering him/her or that something is weighing heavy on his/her mind. In addition to the worry, children with anxiety tend to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness. Their symptoms, in addition to their worries, may cause them to miss out on social activities, avoid school, and meet age expected demands. Anxiety in children may also interfere with their sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep in order to obtain a full night’s rest.
What to Do?
Depression and anxiety can affect everyone differently. Because the symptoms of these disorders can present in many different ways, it may be difficult for identify such symptoms in children. It may appear that your child is being “lazy” and difficult, which may not be the case. If you have concerns that your child might be experiencing depression or struggling with anxiety, it is important to seek professional advice/support. It may be helpful to share your concerns with your child’s pediatrician or to talk with a professional who specializes in childhood psychological disorders (e.g., psychologist, therapist, or counselor). If you or someone you know are interested in learning more about childhood anxiety and depression, additional information can be found in the links below. Please note that effective treatment includes the involvement of a trained therapist.
“What You Need to Know about Childhood Depression” https://www.verywellmind.com/childhood-depression-1066805
Anxiety “Childhood Anxiety & Related Disorders” https://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/childhood-anxiety
“Anxiety Disorders” https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/anxiety-disorders.html