The rate of child anxiety and depression in children has been rising in recent years. However, there still isn’t enough awareness regarding depression facts, child anxiety, and its effects as an adult.
Many well-aware adults wonder whether children are prone to be depressed, and the answer is yes. Although it is typical for a child to have feelings of fear or worry, they are still as subjected to depression as adults.
Persistent forms of sadness and worry can cause anxiety in children, and here’s why.
Child Anxiety and Depression
Children have natural mood swings when they are growing as they are prone to throwing a tantrum. However, there is more to this when it comes to child anxiety. This disorder can affect how a child behaves, interacts, or thinks.
Anxiety is a medical condition in which the mind and body react to unfamiliar or stressful situations. It causes a sense of distress, uneasiness, or dread. It also causes more alertness along with feelings of panic, fear, and worry.
Meanwhile, depression is a severe medical illness that affects how you feel, think, or act. It causes feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and dissociation.
When anxiety and depression in children persist, it can cause internalized disorders.
Examples of Anxiety Disorders
- Fearing a specific thing or situation (phobias).
- Feeling afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety).
- Being fearful of communication and socializing (social anxiety).
- Feeling worried about the future (general anxiety).
- Having episodes of unexpected, intense fear with symptoms such as dizziness, pounding heart, trouble breathing, sweating (panic disorder).
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Some physical symptoms of anxiety include the following.
- Stomach ache
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dry mouth
According to Children’s Mental Health Ontario, anxiety disorders are some of the most common disorders. However, it is also the least understood psychiatric condition as a result of the stigma around anxiety.
This social stigma further discourages the children from discussing their feelings with adults. Ignored and suppressed feelings in children can lead to poor relations with peers, low self-esteem, and depression when they become an adult.
Childhood depression is a distinct clinical entity. This mental health condition risks a child’s future if prolonged depressive episodes are left untreated. Untreated depression can also pose a risk of suicide.
Depression also has psychological, social, and biological underpinnings. Therefore it is vital to treat depression in children.
Most of the time, childhood depression goes unnoticed. However, it is vital to get children diagnosed and treated promptly, as it can be life-saving for most teens.
Who Does Depression Affect?
Depression can affect everyone. However, children with a history of mood disorders are more likely to suffer from it. In addition, children who have OCD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and other mental health illnesses are at a greater risk of facing depression.
Common Signs of Depression in Childhood
Depression manifests differently in adolescence as compared to the way it affects adults. Anger and irritability are the most common signs of depression in children or teens.
Children are also more likely to have physical symptoms such as restlessness, distress, physical pain, and severe mood swings.
Here are some other signs of depression in children.
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of interest in fun activities
- Difficulty in concentration
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Severe weight changes
- Onset agitation
- Anger management issues
- Low self-esteem
- Low energy levels
- General tiredness
There is an association between depression and visible brain changes seen in MRI studies.
Treatment of Child Anxiety and Depression
Treatment of depression in children and child anxiety begins with an overall assessment from a child pediatrician or psychologist. Psychotherapy has by far been shown to confer benefits in treatment.
To diagnose a child first, you need to take him to a pediatrician. The pediatrician will administer some forms of assessment to find out the degree of depression. Then, according to this assessment, they will refer your child to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist.
Treatment is vital when depression or anxiety starts to affect the daily life of a child. These mental disorders may have significant effects on a child’s progress in school. It can also deteriorate their social life.
Therefore it is vital to talk to your children about their thoughts, urges, and feelings. If you notice signs of self-harm, you must take your child to the nearest ER.
Types of Treatment for Depression in Children
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a preferred treatment for moderate and mild depression in children. However, there are exceptions in the treatment if a child has underlying clinical conditions.
For children below ten, psychotherapy such as psychodynamics, behavior, and play therapy is utilized.
For severe depression, a combination of antidepressant medications and CBT is used. The most common drugs are SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).
However, the symptoms of depression should be present for about two weeks to meet the criteria for depression treatment.
How Common Are Childhood Depression and Anxiety?
Anxiety and depression in children are the most common mental health disorders. About seven percent of children aged between 3-17 years are diagnosed with anxiety. Whereas about three percent of children aged between 3-17 get diagnosed with depression.
Depression and anxiety are higher in teenagers aged between 12 to 17. In the US alone, about 3.2 million adolescents experience at least one depressive episode. Therefore you must communicate with children about their thoughts and feelings.
Can You Prevent Your Child From Developing Depression or Anxiety?
Sometimes, depression can be a result of certain situations in life. As a parent, it is vital to educate yourself on mental health issues to create a comfortable environment for your child. In addition, it would help if you learned about anxiety and depression to understand your child better.
You cannot control the stressors in life. However, you can help improve your child’s mental health. First, ensure that your child gets daily exercise and plenty of sleep.
Besides this, try to build a friendly environment at home where your child feels comfortable expressing themselves as it could help them resolve their internal issues.
The proper treatment in childhood can help resolve any problems that may affect your child in adulthood. Therefore, if you notice any signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression, contact a psychologist immediately.
Furthermore, let your child know that they can talk to you honestly about how they feel regarding anything.