Can young children feel depressed?
According to some studies, even babies can feel under the water. So, how can we help them, at that young age, to deal with something that adults don’t understand?
Depression affects children and adults alike. It is estimated that 3% of the child population suffers from this disorder. Until adolescence, it is more common to affect boys; as of adolescence it affects women more.
Depression has no age and even babies suffer from it, although the symptoms vary according to the vital stage in which the child is.
In the case of infants, there is a specific form, known as anaclitic depression, which has two phases, one characterized by crying, apparently unmotivated, accompanied by agitation or restlessness and another one, later, marked by the presence disinterest in the environment and anorexia.
In preschoolers, the symptoms are very nonspecific. They are irritable, with frequent crying. In school-age children, sadness, feelings of guilt, apathy, somatic complaints, such as gut pain and headache, difficulty concentrating, and problems falling asleep become more evident.
We must be aware of the possible decline in the child’s academic performance, given the possibility of school failure. In adolescents, these traits are often accompanied by behavioral problems, some aggressiveness and suicidal ideas. There may also be alcohol and drug use.
Why does a child get depressed?
The tendency to overestimate and mitigate the fact that children cannot become depressed because they live in a moment of their life when they have no problems, responsibilities or worries do not adjust to reality, since depression has many access doors, such as genetic predisposition, an unfavorable social environment, school conflicts, bullying, loss of loved ones, excessively rigid and inflexible families or physical problems.
Among the physical problems, experts identify chronic diseases, especially those associated with pain. Even seasonal depression can affect children especially in the autumn and winter months, when there is less sunlight.
Lack of sun rays causes biochemical modifications in some people and they are expressed after they have decreased levels of serotonin, a hormone that regulates moods and that when it decreases causes depressive states.
Unmasking childhood depression as soon as possible helps the child feel supported to recover his smile. The steps to follow when it is suspected that the child is depressed are consulting with a professional, who at their discretion, will refer the child to a mental health center. However, for the child, it is better if parents provide more attention to find out what the problem may be.
The approach to depression is usually global and may not require a combination of pharmacological measures, such as antidepressants.
As explained by Dr. Caroline Leaf, many mental complications recognized as mental diseases do not have any science to back them up and in most cases, savvy psychologists will offer treatments that involve the child, teen or adult learning to deal with their concern, which is the origin of their alleged depression.
Success in dealing with depression or anxiety, a more common problem in teens, can be achieved without pharmaceutical drugs. It is a matter of helping the child manage his or her emotions and resolving internal or external conflicts in the family or school setting, for example.
In treatment, therefore, not only the child, but also the family and the school environment must be involved.
External issues can affect children and adolescents and these issues can manifest as depression, but if they have tools to know and manage their emotions, the chances of sadness staying in their lives and becoming a passing emotional state are reduced.
In the first place, it is necessary to differentiate depression from normal sadness, in order to avoid falling into an excess of pathologizing all situations.
The best way to prevent depression in childhood and adolescence is to ensure that children and young people have an adequate environment. That situation gives them the opportunity to develop to their full potential and free from chronic stress situations. It gets even better if children are taught to deal with difficulty, loss or stressful situations that may arise.
Likewise, the involvement of the family will be essential when it comes to learning to understand what is happening. That way the child or adolescent will be able to manage the feelings of sadness and deal better with difficult situations at home, school or with friends.