In major depression, a child with no other psychiatric problems suddenly becomes depressed, sometimes for little or no reason. Sometimes their sleep is disturbed. They are not hungry, have no energy, are afraid of all sorts of things, think life is hopeless, can not concentrate at all, are less social and are very irritable.
Examples of Clinical Depression in Children
Sara is 5. She has been in preschool all fall and overall, she enjoys it and does fairly well. After Thanksgiving, she seemed to become less and less excited about pre-school. She thought the others were bugging her. She didn't want to go some days, but her parents made her. At home, it was the same. Nothing was right. When bedtime came, she couldn't sleep and wanted to sleep with her mom. She lost interest in playing with her cousin. She didn't get even get that excited about Christmas. She started telling her parents, "You don't like me". When they took her out to McDonalds, she liked it, but she was never enthusiastic like she used to be. Her mother would notice her sitting in a chair with a horrible look on her face doing nothing.
Ryan is 11. He is in 4th grade and has always been an average student. Of their three children, he gave his parents the least cause for concern until these last few months. It started with him calling home from school to talk with his mom or dad. He just wanted to tell them what was going on. It was never good. He was worrying about passing, even though he was doing fine. Then he started saying that he just couldn't do the work. When his parents would ask why, he would just get mad and tell them they didn't understand. He refused to play hockey in the winter. He wouldn't go hunting with his Dad. The only thing he did was go to scouts and watch TV. So his parents decided to start restricting the TV. Ryan told them that if he couldn't watch TV, he might as well just die. They didn't take it seriously. He was sleeping all day, eating constantly and failing in school. His friends no longer came around. One day his father went to use the bathroom and didn't realize Ryan was in there. He wasn't using the toilet. He had a bunch of pills poured out on the sink.
Tessa is 15. When she was 13, her parents remembered her being a little irritable and to herself, but it was nothing like it is now. Whenever they say anything to her, she returns it with some nasty comment. It is very hard to live with. Tessa has stopped going out very much. She sits in her room with the door locked and listens to music. Sometimes she slams things around in there. Before, Tessa would usually be asleep by 10:30 at the latest. Now she is up later than her parents. Sometimes her mother will come in and ask her if something is bothering her. "What's bothering me?" "Do you really want to know?" Yes, her mother did. So Tessa told her. Tessa felt she was the dumbest, ugliest, most useless piece of crap that God had ever made. She hated herself, her family, and her friends. She told her mother she just wished she could die and then starting crying for about an hour while her mother held her.
More comprehensive information about Child Depression Symptoms.
This is a milder depression that goes on for years at a time. Children and adolescents with Dysthymia often have been depressed so long that they can not recall what not being depressed is like. People think it is part of their personality. Typically they are irritable, hard to please, unhappy with nearly everything and very trying to be around. They tend to have fewer problems with sleep and appetite than children with major depression. To have this disorder you must be depressed or irritable for at least a year straight with at least two of the following:
- poor appetite or overeating
- insomnia or excess sleeping
- low energy or fatigue
- low self esteem
- poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
- feelings of hopelessness
Children with dysthymia often can still enjoy some activities. Children with dysthymia are at a very high risk to get MDD. Over 70% of dysthymic children will get severely depressed, and 12% will get manic depressive disorder. Rather than recover, they often go back to their dysthymic selves. A long episode of Dysthymia will mess up a child's life far more than a brief episode of severe depression.