In recent years, there's been a growing recognition of how common depression is, which has encouraged people to be aware of its signs both in themselves and in others around them. There's no doubt that this is an excellent change that has almost certainly saved lives and prevented people from suffering in silence.
However, much of the focus when depression is discussed has been on adult sufferers. And, although it's more common among adults, children can be depressed as well. Unfortunately, depression is not always so easy to spot among younger people, partly because they're not very good at communicating their feelings, and partly because children can have unpredictable moods at the best of times. Look out for these signs which may indicate a child has depression.
Reduced activity levels
Children are normally on the go quite a lot from morning to night, so any change in this should be cause for concern. Of course, not all children are naturally that active — if all seems normal, it's probably nothing to worry about — changes are more likely to signal a problem. Depressed children may be tired due to lack of sleep or lose interest in activity because they don't feel like doing much.
Spending time alone
This can be easier to spot in younger children than it can be in teenagers, who commonly withdraw from family life and prefer to spend time in their bedrooms. However, if your child is not interested in seeing friends or spending time with others outside of school, there might be something else going on, particularly if they were previously socially active.
Another symptom that could be down to normal teenage behaviour, regular irritable outbursts are more of a concern if they're out of character. Pay particular attention if this is accompanied by other depressive symptoms.
Poor performance at school
Depression makes concentration difficult, which can have a big impact on a child's schoolwork. If their grades have taken a dive and they're not getting the results you expect, approach the subject sensitively, as it might not be because of laziness or a lack of effort.
Frequent symptoms of illness
If a child reports frequent stomach aches or headaches, that's a good reason to go to the doctor in itself. But if there doesn't seem to be any medical reason for the problem, it might be caused by depression and its related symptoms. Also, some children with depression fake headaches or stomachaches as a way to get out of school or social activities, since they can't be disproved. If you think this may be the case, however, don't confront the child about it, as it can make them feel worse.
If you think your child is suffering from depression, contact a counseling center for depression help.