How To Spot Depression In Children

How To Spot Depression In Children

by Dr Emma Gray - 27th June, 2018

Low mood in children is often dismissed as a passing phase, sometimes as just part of growing up. However, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence estimates that in the UK alone 80,000 children suffer from depression, 8,000 of those are under 10. Depression is not a problem that will just go away on its own.

Here are the signs to look out for in your children:

  • Persistent irritability or anger
  • Continual sadness or expressions of hopelessness
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and/or previously enjoyed activities
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Changes in appetite or sleep (either increase or decrease)
  • Frequent outbursts of crying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy and/or interest in things
  • Frequent physical complaints (headaches, tummy pains)
  • Ideas of suicide

Different children will experience a different combination of symptoms and symptoms may vary across days and settings, but if your child is exhibiting one of more of these signs it is possible that they are suffering from Depression.

Causes of Depression in Children

The biological origins of Depression remain unclear but risk factors for Depression in children include a chaotic and/or conflicted family, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse (including persistent criticism and invalidation of feelings, ideas and opinions) and families where violence and/or substance abuse occurs. In addition, if a parent suffers from Depression the children in that family are more likely to develop depression, this is not necessarily due to genetic factors but is likely to be linked to the way that the parent interacts with their child and what they model to their child.

Drug, alcohol, self-harm and suicide

Under the age of 12, substance misuse, self-harm and suicide is less common but these behaviours are all linked to Depression so be on the lookout for them, particularly in children over the age of 12. They usually indicate an escalation in Depression. Suicide is more common in girls and often happens impulsively when a child is upset, particularly when they are angry.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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