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Symptoms and Signs of Depression in Children and Adolescents

IMAGE Depression in children and teens is not rare. However, because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary phase or is suffering from depression. Here is a list of symptoms and signs to help identify when a child is suffering from depression.

Symptoms of Depression Common to Children, Adolescents, and Adults

Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad or irritable mood
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Significant change in appetite or body weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Signs of Depression That May Be Present in Children and Adolescents

  • Frequent vague, nonspecific physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or tiredness
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
  • Pretending to be sick
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying
  • Being bored
  • Lack of interest in playing with friends
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Clinging to parent
  • Fear of death
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Reckless behavior
  • Difficulty with relationships

Note : Not every depressed child will experience every symptom—some will experience a few symptoms, some many; and the severity of symptoms will vary from child to child. Depression can be very serious, but it is treatable. If your child is showing any of these signs and symptoms, talk with your child's doctor.

  • American Psychological Association

    http://www.apa.org/

  • National Institute of Mental Health

    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

  • Canadian Mental Health Association

    http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/index.asp

  • Mental Health Canada

    http://www.mentalhealthcanada.com/

  • Depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated December 17, 2012. Accessed January 2, 2013.

  • Depression in Children and Teens. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/depression/depression-in-children-and-teens.html. Updated August 2012. Accessed January 2, 2013.

  • How do children and adolescents experience depression? National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/depression-in-children-and-adolescents.shtml . Accessed January 2, 2013.

  • Symptoms of depression. Kidshealth.org website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your%5Fmind/mental%5Fhealth/depression.html#. Updated November 2011. Accessed January 2, 2013.