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Depression in children and adolescents

Depression in children and adolescents
Depression in children and adolescents

In everyday language, we often use, and maybe even overuse, the word “depression”. We say, “I think I’m depressed”, “what a depressive weather”, “don’t be so depressed.” Usually, when we say that, we think about our reaction to some difficult event that has made us feel sad, depressed, unwell, regretful or frustrated. The use of the term “depression” in everyday life has nothing to do with the actual definition of the word. But it can lead to disregard for the symptoms of the real one. That is why it is worth knowing its symptoms, causes and knowing where to seek help. Depression in children and adolescents.

What is depression?

Often a child suffering from depression is treated by the environment (parents, school) as lazy, perpetually dissatisfied or sad. Some even try to motivate depressed children and teenagers unsuccessfully by saying: “get a grip”, “shake it off”, “don’t overdo it, nothing’s happening anymore.”

Child depression has recently been discussed. Previously, this disease was only diagnosed in adults. In children, it was unnoticed, because no one asked them what they felt or what their mood was. Today I know that children, just like adults, experience frustration, disappointment, and the sadness associated with the loss in their lives. If these difficult feelings caused by various situations do not pass and the children experience sadness or low mood for a long time (even several months), we can say that they suffer from depression. In the case of ordinary sadness, a pleasant surprise, a gift, spending time together with parents, positive attention from the family usually helps. It is not enough in depression.

Depression is a potentially life-threatening disease. It is a long-term, harmful, and serious condition with excessively depressed mood and mental, behavioral, and physical symptoms.

Symptoms of Depression – Which You Should Be Concerned About

The symptoms of depression depend on the child’s development stage. The younger it is, the harder it is for it to say what it feels, to share its emotional state with its parent, what it is going through.

Pre-school and early-school children often complain of various somatic ailments, such as:

  • Stomach pain,
  • Headaches,
  • Leg pain,
  • Lack of appetite, lack of appetite,
  • Involuntary wetting.

We can also observe in them:

  • Apathy,
  • Increased irritability,
  • Lack of interest in activities, such as having fun previously
  • Reluctance to cooperate,
  • Separation anxiety,
  • Lack of interest in lessons.

The symptoms of adolescent depression are slightly different:

  • Sadness, depression, tearfulness, becoming easily angry or despairing, which may show hostility towards others
  • Indifference, apathy, loss of the ability to experience joy; the young person stops enjoying the events or things that previously made him happy,
  • Cessation of activities that were previously satisfying, e.g. fun, hobbies, meeting friends; young people also refuse to go to school, leave home, leave their room, neglect personal hygiene,
  • Withdrawal from social life,
  • Overreacting to criticism, irritability or anger, even when the parent pays attention in a very delicate way and on a very trivial matter,
  • Depressive thinking, which is expressed in the words “everything is pointless”, “I’m hopeless”, “nobody likes me”, “I will not succeed” etc.,
  • Unjustified feeling of fear – “I don’t know what I’m afraid of”,
  • Taking impulsive, ill-considered actions to relieve anxiety, tension and sadness, e.g. drinking alcohol, taking drugs,
  • Self-destructive actions – self-mutilation, e.g. cutting the body with a sharp tool, burning the body with a lighter or a cigarette, biting, scratching to the point of blood; deliberately inflicting pain on yourself
  • Thoughts of resignation – “life is hopeless”, “what am I living for”, “it would be better if I died”,
  • Suicidal thoughts – thinking and fantasizing about your own death, planning it, and in extreme cases, committing suicide.

Must Read: Indications for working with a left-handed child

When dealing with a young person with depression, we can also observe many non-specific symptoms such as:

  • Disturbance in concentration and difficulty with remembering which cause learning difficulties, deterioration of educational results, missed lessons
  • Psychomotor agitation – as a result of the experienced fear and tension, the child performs many senseless movements, e.g. nibbles at clothes, rubs his hands, etc.,
  • Excess activity, such as watching TV or playing games,
  • Increase or decrease in appetite,
  • Sleep problems – difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night, waking up early in the morning, excessive sleepiness.

The causes of depression

Like any disease, depression also has its causes. Doctors and psychologists recognize that there are several factors responsible for depression:

Biochemical processes in the brain

People suffering from depression experience imbalances between various biochemical substances in the brain, such as: serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, acetylcholine, histamine or gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Predispositions, or genes

This means that if grandparents, parents, siblings suffered from depression, especially in the early stages of development, and the disease recurred, the risk of developing the disease in a child is greater than in his peers. However, it should be remembered that this does not mean that such a person will definitely get sick.

Difficult events,

Which the child had experienced and could not cope with, and also did not receive adult help. That is everything that may negatively affect the functioning of the child and contribute to the feeling of chronic stress, e.g. neglect, lack of parental support and care, excessive expectations and requirements that the child is unable to meet. Other difficult events that can contribute to a depressive disorder include:

– Harassment, sexual abuse,

– No sense of security,

– high level of difficult emotions due to the death of a parent, family member, family conflicts, parents’ illness, the child’s own illness,

– Breaking a bond with a loved one

– Girlfriend, boyfriend, – loss of friends,

– School problems – low educational results despite the effort put into it, violence, social exclusion by peers.

Psychogenic factors

They include individual mental construction, low self-esteem, tendencies to self-criticism, tendencies to automatically interpret facts and events for their own disadvantage.

Where to go for help

Depression is a disease, so it’s important to know where to seek help.

The basic methods of treating depression are non-pharmacological activities in the form of psychotherapy as well as medical activities and the introduction of drugs.

Individual, group and family psychotherapy is conducted by a person who is a certified psychotherapist (not only a psychologist). Usually it is a psychologist or a psychiatrist who has undergone appropriate training for several years and obtained the title of psychotherapist.

If psychological interaction alone is ineffective, pharmacological treatment should be initiated. The use of drugs is a complementary method to psychotherapy. The psychiatrist of children and adolescents decides about the use of drugs. Comprehensive treatment for depression usually takes place at a mental health clinic. When a child is highly prone to self-destructive behavior and there is a risk of suicide, hospitalization in a psychiatric ward for children and adolescents may be necessary. It is worth knowing that in the case of a child under 16, only parents or legal guardians decide about treatment. When a child reaches the age of 16, he or she has to give consent for treatment. If there is a threat to life and health, for example, a teenager wants to commit suicide, he or she may be admitted to the hospital and treated even without the consent of the caregivers or the teenager himself. Then the hospital notifies the family court, which, on behalf of the patient or his guardian, makes a decision as to further proceedings.