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Childhood Depression: The Difference Between “The Blues” and Mood Issues

How can you tell the difference between a rough day or week versus a more serious mood issue in your child? We all have the depressed teenoccasional bad day, but when a child’s mood or behavior changes so dramatically that it begins to interfere with their overall quality of life, depression may be present.

In addition to persistent feelings of sadness, key indicators of childhood depression are:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns (e.g., sleeping more or less than usual)
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Guilty or worthless feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or activities
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Heightened fear of being rejected
  • Crying and other vocal outbursts
  • Physical symptoms (e.g., stomach aches or headaches that are not responsive to other modes of treatment)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

For example, if your child has always enjoyed school and valued completing homework, but now has become resistant towards going to school and failing to complete assigned tasks, this could be a red flag that there is something deeper going on with your child. Your child does not need to meet every criteria listed above in order to meet depression diagnostic standards. If depressive symptoms are present for at least 2 weeks, it is important to contact your medical and/or mental health care provider. Factors that may contribute to depression include family history of depression, interpersonal conflicts or life event changes. The good news is that depression responds to mental health treatment. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy alters the way in which a child views the world. Children and their therapists are able to address underlying messages and assumptions that the child has about him/herself and the world. Addressing these underlying messages and assumptions will help the child re-create a more positive and realistic framework from which to function within. Depression involves more than sadness; it is a low-mood state that affects all aspects of daily life and functioning.

Download our Childhood Depression Checklist here

Watch a 2 minute webisode detailing the 3 Signs of Childhood Depression

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