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What is depression in children?

Much like adults, children may also suffer from depression. Depression in children is marked by a feeling of sadness and disinterest which is persistent and affects schoolwork, relationships and activities. Unlike bouts of sadness, depression does not wear off with time but needs attention. Depression in children must be taken seriously and it needs to be treated.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Ways to tell whether a child suffers from depression include a careful watch for the following symptoms:

  • Anger and short temperedness
  • Altered appetite and sleep patterns
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Lack of energy and drive, inability to concentrate
  • Heightened sensitivity to criticism or rejection, bursts of crying
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Persistent sadness, feeling of guilt or worthlessness
  • Headache and stomach ache which do not ease with treatment

What are its main causes?

Several conditions may cause or place children at risk of depression. These include:

  • Family history of depression
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Conflicts and unrest in the family environment
  • Physical illness
  • Disruptive family events

How is it diagnosed and treated?

When persistent bouts of sadness that last at least a fortnight are seen in a child, it is time to seek medical help. A medical practitioner usually checks for any physical ailments before referring the child to a mental health specialist. Interviews with the child and the family, medical history and family history, meetings with friends and teachers and any psychological questionnaires are usually used to diagnose depression, along with the presence of any other related disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In order to treat depression, the first option is always psychotherapy, which involves counselling and other techniques. Antidepressants may be considered as a secondary option to help children overcome acute depression. Medication for other co-existing disorders may also be prescribed, if needed.

  1. Depression in Children की दवा - Medicines for Depression in Children in Hindi
  2. Doctors for Depression in Children
Dr. Yeeshu Singh Sudan

Dr. Yeeshu Singh Sudan


Dr. Veena Raghunathan

Dr. Veena Raghunathan


Dr. Sunit Chandra Singhi

Dr. Sunit Chandra Singhi


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  1. Claudia Mehler-Wex et al. Depression in Children and Adolescents. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2008 Feb; 105(9): 149–155. PMID: 19633781
  2. HealthLink BC [Internet] British Columbia; Depression in Children and Teens
  3. Alsaad AJ, Al Nasser Y. Depression In Children. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
  4. National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Depression in Children and Young People: Identification and Management in Primary, Community and Secondary Care.. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2005. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 28.) 3, Depression.
  5. Paul O Wilkinson. Managing depression in childhood and adolescence. London J Prim Care (Abingdon). 2009; 2(1): 15–20. PMID: 26042160

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