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Childhood Depression - Learn More

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Omkar Mate 90% (63 ratings)
MBBS, Diploma In Psychological Medicine, Diploma In National Board In Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Navi Mumbai  •  16 years experience
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Hello, everyone, my name is Dr. Omkar Mate and I am a consultant neuropsychiatrist practicing at Madras clinic Nerul and Panvel. Today we will speak about a topic which is close to my heart because I am having a special interest in child and adolescent psychiatry. Today we will speak about childhood depression.

Yes, when we talk about depression, you always think that it is something which will be away from children because we remember childhood days as stress-free and hassle-free. But depression also affects children. Though, it is hard to imagine depression occurring in children. Children about 3 to 10 children amongst 100 suffer from depression. You will open any newspaper any day and you will find out news about children committing suicide or doing something bad to themselves. So, children also suffer from depression.

What can be the causes in children? The causes of depression in children mostly are in their surroundings. So, there can be fight amongst their parents, they may suffer from traumatic events like earthquakes or accidents happening around them. They may have some problems in the household, there may be sibling rivalry which means they may be jealous about their younger siblings or brothers or sisters. There may be problems like a death in the family, someone close near or dear to them may pass away. Other than that, there may also be physical or sexual abuse happening to the child. Along with that there may be academic problems that means learning problems a child may suffer from. These are some of the environmental problems which may lead a child to become depressed.

But if we are talking about changes in the brain, then what happens in the brain is some neurochemicals that are chemicals in the brain reduce in the brainchild because of which the child suffers from depression. Now, how does depression present in children that means what are the symptoms? See, an adult when is depressed is able to tell above or talk about his feelings. An adult will tell people around them may be friends, family members that he is feeling sad or low or that he is feeling angry. A child, however, is not able to recognise emotions. So, most of the times a child suffering from depression shows it through his behaviour. A child suffering from depression may become very angry. He may start doing behaviours which he never did previously like a child may start lying, he may start stealing, he may not complete his or her homework, he may even tear pages in his notebook. Sometimes children withhold information from their parents, they will not show report cards to the parents and such behaviour prom problems increase. Children may also become more demanding. They may ask for many things, material things, they may ask for new things just to see whether the adults in the family or their parents love them enough. So, they start seeking attention. This attention seeking behaviour is common in children suffering from depression.

Along with that, there is something which we call as acting out. Acting out means that a child shows behavioral problems like temper tantrums, anger outburst, throwing things, breaking things, sometimes harming self with a blade or a knife. So, these acting out behaviors are common in children suffering from depression. They may also talk about physical symptoms, by that I mean something like a headache or a tummy ache or some backache or some coughing which a doctor is not able to explain. That means the symptoms, these physical symptoms that a child show, they are not explained by any physical illness. So, they are usually taken to multiple doctors for treating their headaches, tummy aches or for things like coughing where the doctor is not able to find any problem and that time, we should suspect depression in the child.

What happens because of this? So, a child who is supposed to study is not able to do that like adults in depression are unable to focus or concentrate in things, a child with depression is not able to study. They are not able to play, they have lost the interest to play many times and even they are not able to concentrate at any task at hand. So, that is why their scholastic progress declines. So now, how can a child with depression be treated? Many a times we come across parents who are not able to understand their child suffering from depression. Many times, they are in denial that even a child can suffer from depression. But as I told you they really do and then the first step in treating the child is to seek professional help. Professional help for depression is provided by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists or counselling psychologists. These are people who are able to understand the diagnostic criteria of diagnosing a child with depression.

The treatment options in a child include counseling or therapy as well as medicines because a child does not have maturity in thinking to understand what is going wrong. So many times, something called as behaviour therapy or behaviour change or behaviour modification is done with children, that means they are counseled to increase their positive behaviour and they are counselled also to reduce their negative behaviour. This type of counselling takes up much time and is a done by professional psychologists. However, if the child is moderately or severely depressed, then we always suggest medicines because finally what is going wrong in the brain is that certain neurochemicals are down. So, medicines are nothing but those which are given to increase those chemicals. A child with depression can be cured in months’ time if the treatment is followed as advised by the treating doctor. For more help, you can contact me on Lybrate.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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