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5 Signs of Depression in Children

Childhood is a complicated, often beautiful, sometimes impossibly frustrating process. As a parent your job is to nurture your child, to help them discover their own personality while instilling them with a sense of empathy and a moral compass that will serve them well in proper society. While you would like to hope you could help your child navigate the pitfalls of youth without much pain and suffering it is sometimes outside of your control. And one of the painful situations that could develop is childhood depression. A kid doesn’t have to come from a broken home or experience some sort of major trauma to grapple with this disease. Much of the cause is hereditary, and science still doesn’t know everything about it. The only thing you can do is keep an eye out for the warning signs, and get your child the help he needs as quickly as possible. Here are five signs of depression in children.

One of the most obvious signs you’ll see are quick, unpredictable mood swings. Obviously it can be a bit difficult to separate the normal childhood tantrum from a precursor to depression. But if your once happy and calm child quickly descends into angry outbursts or crying spells that seem to have no cause you might want to look a bit deeper. He could be more sensitive than normal, or just react in a manner that doesn’t match the situation.

Another key sign of childhood depression is a constant state of low energy or fatigue. Children don’t usually have much trouble getting out of bed, at least not until their teenage years. If you notice your child falls asleep during the day, or his teachers report back that he is lazy and unfocused in class, you may want to take a closer look.

Behaviors all across the board aren’t inherently abnormal, and children must go through a number of phases in their development. But if you see drastic changes in your child’s eating and sleeping patterns, that could be a problem. A depressed child may lose his appetite entirely, or over eat as a form of compensation. Big swings in weight could be the result, and those are always a warning sign. The same goes with sleep. If your child has trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, or on the other end of the spectrum seems to sleep more than is healthy it’s probably time to talk about it.

A depressed child may have trouble in social situations. You’ll notice if your usually outgoing and fun-loving child suddenly starts to withdraw, or has no interest in social situations. Some kids are loners, or take a while to get comfortable with people. That’s perfectly natural, until you notice it becoming a problem. He could withdraw from you as well, and not really talk much to anyone. He may also have more trouble dealing with rejection from you or from his peers than he did in the past.

Finally, keep one ear on the sorts of things your child talks about. If he seems to have dark thoughts, or makes disparaging comments about himself that’s a clear signal that there’s a problem. And any time there seems to be a large number of thoughts about dying or suicide you should always look into the situation further. Reach out to an organization like NLP4 Kids if you need advice. Dealing with depression is a difficult process, and there’s no shame in asking for help.