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Understanding Childhood Depression

June 2, 2019

Depression is a term usually associated with adults but it affects children too. Childhood depression is a reality although the signs may vary from that of adults.

Being sad should not be confused with childhood depression because kids tend to feel low at times. However, a persistent and more constant state of gloom could be indicative of mental health issue.

“Depression in children and particularly those with developmental disorders is more prevelant then thought to be. Of all the kids that I see in my practice with carried diagnosis like ADHD, Autism, Learning disability, around 60 to 70 percent display symptoms of depression and anxiety. The reason I feel it goes unnoticed is because it's masked and overlapping with existing co morbidities and hence difficult to be pinpointed. But a closer look at the child's behaviour is the key to unvieling it's mask.” Dr Kinjal Chandra, Founder Pehel Pediatric Therapy Centre

The signs of depression in children may vary causing the condition to remain undetected for a long time. Some kids may have more prominent symptoms while others may not. Here are some signs to look out for.

• Being angry and irritated often.

• Mood swings

• Constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness

• Keeping away from other kids or social setup

• Increased sensitivity to rude behavior

• Changes in appetite, eating less or more

• Disturbed sleep

• Sudden crying, weeping

• Lack of focus, concentration

• Poor academic performance

• Being tired most of the time

• Physical issues like pain in stomach, headaches

• Not taking interest in activities at school, with friends or at home

• Negative thinking

• Thoughts of death and suicide

Treatment

It is important to understand that depression is a serious mental health issue and is treatable. It is however important to not ignore the signs and get timely help for children to aid in faster recovery.

Parents should get the child checked by a paediatrician who can help ascertain if the child is depressed. The doctor can refer you to a mental health specialist for evaluation and treatment.

Medicines, antidepressants, therapy and care by the parents and family members can go a long way in lifting the child out of the depression and aid in their growth and development, says Dr Venkat Iyer, a psychiatrist who treats children with depression.

Depression in children is on a rise and I think one cause is dual family earning. Since both parents are working, children are left alone most of the time. They have become addicted to gadgets such as mobile phones, gaming consoles or spend time before TV. It is important that parents spend some time with children on daily basis. - Dr Venkat Iyer, Psychiatrist

Parents play the most crucial role apart from a specialist. Here are a few things parents can do to help a depressed child:

• Communicating is the key to build trust and assure the child that as a parent you are there for them.

• Encourage the child to talk about his or her feelings. This will help understand what is causing him to feel low. It could be studies, peer pressure, low self-esteem etc.

• Don’t be judgmental and show acceptance to the child.

• Make sure child is getting proper rest and balanced, nutritious diet.

• Spend time with your child and do activities that are fun and enjoyable.

• Parents need to be patient and affectionate through the recovery process.

• Avoid comparing the child with other children. Parents need to realise that all kids are different and unique in their own way.

Dr Kinjal Chandra says,” It's imperative for parents, caregivers and proffessionals to give the due attention to depression in children with Developmental disorders. Parents should provide healthy nurturing environment to children, have good attachment with kids, spend quality time with kids and be vigilant of changed in behavior, be supportive of your child and lend a ear to then as often as possible, Encourage your child for physical activities like cycling, swimming, skating, gymnastics or simple playing in the park.

Above all, do be open to seeking the help of an expert if coping can seem overwhelming.

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