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4 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Depression in Children

child and family at a therapy session


Key Takeaways

  • Child depression is on the rise, having nearly doubled over the last three years.
  • Treatment for child depression, by contrast, has not changed.
  • Learning about child depression and destigmatizing its treatment is imperative for parents.

Checking in on your child's mental health is an essential part of parenting. What happens to your child's brain during these formative years can shape the way they think about the world - and themselves - for the rest of their lives.

As such, it's important for parents to be on the lookout for any signs of mental health problems in their children. One of the most common problems is childhood depression.

Depression in children can range in severity from mild fatigue to suicidal behavior, so taking action as a parent is crucial.

Let's explore depression in children, as well as your options as a parent for treatment plans.

One quick note: If you're concerned about your child's mental state, it's best to consult a licensed professional before taking (or not taking) any action.

Child Depression Information on This Page:

Is there such a thing as childhood depression?

Why is depression in children on the rise?

Does a family history of depression increase my child's risk?

Treating Depression In Children: Options for Parents

Child Therapy in Austin

Is there such a thing as childhood depression?

Child depression is very real, and becoming increasingly common.

Depression is characterized by:

  • Lasting fatigue
  • Feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
  • Excessive sleeping
  • A lack of interest in previously engaging activities

It can also manifest in feelings of guilt or sadness, physical symptoms, and bouts of anger or irritable mood swings.

Depression can prevent your child from doing the things they love - the things that, by nature, also teach them about the world, how to socialize, and how to think critically.

While child psychology is certainly different from that of adults, the same processes and neurotransmitter imbalances that can lead to depression in adults can also happen in children.

Additionally, children are often more susceptible to mental health issues from external factors, such as a parent's divorce or death, than adults. This means that circumstantial depression - or, depression related to trauma or a life circumstance - is also a common mental health concern in children.

On top of all of this is the fact that mental health during one's formative years can have a lasting impact on mental health as a whole permanently - even more so than in adults.

These risk factors make it imperative to establish a culture where we take childhood depression very seriously. Failure to do so can have drastic and debilitating effects on our children.

Statistics on Depression in Children

Here is a quick list of stats about depression in children:

It's clear from these statistics that child depression is on the rise. It's a similar story with depression, ADHD, and behavioral issues as well.

Why is depression in children on the rise?

Depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but several external factors can increase one's risk of developing it.

Beyond physiological and genetic risk factors of depression in children, there are numerous environmental factors that can contribute as well:

  • Genetic factors; physiology
  • Poor diet
  • Limited exercise
  • Increased stimulation, particularly from digital sources
  • Disturbing online content; algorithm-based content platforms
  • Family circumstances, like moving to a new city
  • Family dysfunction or abuse

It's impossible, given current evidence and science, to blame any one thing for the rise in childhood depression. In all likelihood, it's a combination of hundreds of factors that are all contributing.

What's important right now is that we work to destigmatize childhood depression and get more children the help they need.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

Does a family history of depression increase my child's risk?

Absolutely. If the biological parents of a child have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the child's risk of developing depression at some point in their life surges by 200% to 500%.

This doesn't mean that the children of parents with depression will certainly become depressed, but it does mean that, if you have a family history of depression, you should monitor your child for symptoms on an ongoing basis. You may consider speaking with a mental health professional about regular check-ins.

Treating Depression In Children: Options for Parents

If you're worried that your child may be depressed, the first step is diagnosis.

A licensed therapist or psychologist will be able to determine whether your child is depressed by way of a mental health evaluation. It's important to trust a professional's diagnosis before attempting any treatments, since normal child behavior can often be mistaken for depression. Treating depression where there isn't any can cause more harm than good.

Once you obtain an official diagnosis from a licensed therapist, there are several treatment options available to reduce your child's symptoms. Your child's therapist will be able to guide you through them in more detail, but here is a general rundown of some of the most common.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Children

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based method for restructuring thought through discussion with a licensed therapist.

CBT works by first analyzing the way your child thinks, and then walking them through the process of interrupting negative thought patterns and replacing them with healthier ones.

Often used in conjunction with medication management, CBT is one of the most rigorously studied forms of therapy, and is usually the go-to for child therapists.

Play Therapy for Children

For younger children who do not yet possess the intellectual capacity for longer discussion and analysis, play therapy can be an effective way to manage symptoms of depression.

A child psychologist may direct your child to playful yet productive activities that can both help reduce symptoms and provide context for the psychologist's analysis.

Parents are often included in play therapy sessions, and may be encouraged to participate. Quality family time can be instrumental in the mental health of a young child.

Medication Management for Depression in Children

Only give your child medication as prescribed by a licensed medical professional.

Severe depression, along with other mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or ADHD, may be managed using a number of medications. Some medications include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (major brand name: Prozac)
  • Benzodiazepines (major brand name: Xanax)
  • Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analogues (major brand name: Neurontin)

All of these drugs work by altering the chemicals in your child's brain in one way or another, though the specific process by which each one works varies considerably.

Child Therapy in Austin

If you think your child may be depressed, or has been diagnosed with depression, the child psychology team at Williamsburg Therapy Group is ready to help.

Each member of our staff holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, giving them special insight into the child therapy specialty.

Take action by scheduling an appointment today. You can also call us to get matched with the right therapist for your child.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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