What is Child Depression?
Children are often seen as carefree, happy and inquisitive individuals. Most likely they will be found running, playing, and exploring their surroundings. In rare instances will there be a child who is mostly sad, distracted and withdrawn. For this particular case, it is possible that he is afflicted with childhood depression.
Truly, adults aren’t the only ones who can get depressed. Depression is usually associated with the stress of everyday living – responsibilities, social norms, mental and emotional strain – which seems not to have a place in a child’s life. However, children do feel stress as well. If they are unable to handle it, they may become emotional, anxious and introverted.
As a parent, it can be especially hard for you to witness your once naturally curious and lively child suddenly lose interest in his environment, and turn into a sullen, silent and tearful being. To console yourself, you may think of it as growing pains or a part of childhood development. But if left unchecked, depression may have harmful effects in the long run and ultimately affect your child’s future.
There are ways of telling if your child is suffering from depression, as signs occur similarly with those of adult depression. However, the difference lies in how these symptoms are actually expressed, considering the various developmental stages of a child. Below are some of the common symptoms of child depression:
- Loss of enthusiasm in most activities
- Fatigue and irritability
- Sadness or low moods
- Nightmares and sleep disorders
- Change in physical activity, usually extreme, as when liveliness becomes lethargy and tranquil behavior becomes hyperactivity
- Change in appetite or weight
- Refusal to go to school, or an increase of school absences, accompanied by a drop in academic performance
- Aggressive behavior and emotional outbursts
- Rejection of friends or social withdrawal
- Headaches, stomachaches, or other physical complaints that occur repeatedly for no apparent reason
Child depression is not always caused by circumstance or outside forces; it can also be biological in nature. Below are established causes of child depression:
- Traumatic experience or stressful event – death in the family, separation of parents or child abuse is a common cause of depression.
- Learned attitudes, or child’s own personality traits – a parent who is himself/herself feeling depressed, or is excessively pessimistic and critical, can unknowingly be passing on the same feelings to the child. On the other hand, there are children who are naturally melancholic by nature. Under both circumstances, the child has a greater tendency to become a victim of depression.
- Genetics – studies reveal that a family with a history of depression significantly increases the likelihood of the child suffering from the same disorder.
- Brain chemistry – depression is most often attributed to chemical imbalance in the brain, which may in turn be caused by any one or all of the above mentioned preceding circumstances.
Initially, it is crucial to pinpoint exactly what brought about the depression in order to accurately determine the type of approach to use – whether it be simple counseling, medical treatment or both.
Treatment is a very delicate task, as the patient involved is a mere child. But there are a number of natural remedies which have proven to be quite beneficial and lack the harmful side-effects that conventional drugs can usually bring. A holistic approach may be the correct path to take: psychotherapy, adequate food and rest and the right amount of exercise may not only help ease the depression but also promote a healthy mind and body. Herbal remedies can especially aid in the process of renewal. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) and Passiflora are popular for treating depression, anxiety and other disorders related to chemical imbalance. They are most effective when combined with herbs that aid in better blood circulation and blood flow to the brain.