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How is depression detected in young children? These are the signs - Walla! health

2021-04-10T17:10:43.589Z

Up to 3 percent of children ages 3-12 will suffer from severe depression, but their symptoms will manifest differently from adult depression. How do you identify depression and suicidal tendencies in children?



  • health

  • parenthood

  • Child health

How is depression detected in young children?

These are the signs

We have a tendency to think of childhood as a happy and carefree period, but this is not always true, certainly not after the year of Corona.

Even 3-year-olds can be depressed, only he will look different.

How are children's depression identified and treated?

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  • parenthood

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Friday, 09 April 2021, 07:02 Updated: 07:54

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Depression at a young age looks different from what we are used to looking for.

Sad child (Photo: ShutterStock)

After a whole year of dealing with a global epidemic, closures and isolations and economic anxieties, it would not be an exaggeration to say that almost every adult person has gone through an emotional upheaval this year and at least some partial encounter with depression and melancholy.

Much attention has also been paid to the mental state of adolescents and adolescents, for whom social detachment from their peers and frameworks has been particularly critical at an age when society is an essential need.



But even younger children, sometimes very young, can experience depression.

Certainly after a year in which they too faced tensions, changes and anxieties.

And depression may look different at these tender ages, making it even more difficult for parents and professionals to identify and treat it.

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Rachel Bosman, a clinical psychologist who works at the New York Child Psychiatry Institute, explained in an interview with the New York Times that one of the reasons we find it difficult to think about depression in young children is that most of us perceive childhood as a happy and innocent time.

However, the data show a slightly different picture - between 2 and 3 percent of children aged 6-12 suffer from severe depression, she said.

It's not a lot, but also quite a bit at all.

Most often, the manifestation of depression will be nervousness and tantrums.

Angry girl (Photo: ShutterStock)

Children with anxiety disorders (7 percent of all children ages 3-17, according to studies) are also more likely to suffer from depression.

Dr. Helen Agar, until recently chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Langon Health Services in New York, said in an interview with the New York Times that according to her epidemiological study, 1-2 percent of children (starting at age 3) suffer from depression.

"Adult problem"?

Depression was initially defined as an 'adult problem'.

Until the 1950s and 1960s, psychiatrists believed that children did not have a sufficiently developed ego to suffer from depression.

However, a study conducted in the 1970s by psychiatry lecturer Dr. Maria Covacs and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed for the first time that "even school-age children can suffer from diagnosable depression."



Until adolescence, depression is equally common in boys and girls, but thereafter it is twice as common in girls as in boys.

And this relationship is maintained more or less throughout adulthood, until old age - where things balance out again and the prevalence of depression becomes similar among both sexes.

Symptoms of depression in young children

In young children, "Depression is often manifested first and foremost in a 'nervous' mood, and not necessarily in sadness - it manifests itself in very nervous children," explains Dr. Covacs. That way, it is zero, "she adds. Therefore, it is the job of the adults responsible to look for the signs that something is wrong and find out.

"You had a child who behaved a certain way and suddenly he was different - more nervous and sad."

Angry boy (Photo: ShutterStock)

The best way to detect depression in a child is not through what he says but through what he does - and in most cases the intention is more for what he stops doing.

Look for "significant changes in functioning," says Dr. Covecs. in favor of amusement and interest. or if it appears that he is no longer interested in the daily conduct family home.



"If you had a child behaved in a certain way, and suddenly you notice that he is different - more nervous and sad," says Dr. Helen agar, adding that sometimes depressed children will see no Energy, drained, get tired easily.

Alongside this, they may start complaining about physical symptoms: abdominal and headaches, mostly.

They may sleep more than usual, or less than usual, or lose their appetite.

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Tantrums and outbursts of anger may also characterize depression in children, especially preschoolers.

Outbursts of anger that may pose a risk to the boy or girl's well-being, or to their environment.

"Depression may sometimes seem like a 'behavior problem,' but what drives the seizures are the emotions the child experiences within himself," says Dr. Ager.



"They feel like they are walking the world wearing dark glasses and lenses.

It concerns myself, others, the world as well - I'm bad, he's bad, everything's bad, "Dr. Covacs tries to transcribe the experience of children's depression.

Do children also have suicidal thoughts?

Nervousness and anger, or exhaustion and self-extinction may be signs of deep sadness.

And although elementary school-age suicides are still a rare occurrence, their number has risen in recent years.

According to data published in the journal JAMA, suicide was the second most common cause of death among children aged 10-14 in 2018. The number of referrals of children under 11 due to suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts increased by 41 percent between 2007-2015.

Do not be afraid to talk about suicidal thoughts, you will not give them ideas.

Girl cuts herself (Photo: ShutterStock)

Children also have suicidal thoughts, and should be treated as a call for help.

"One of the common myths about child suicidal thoughts is that 'if we ask them about it, we might give them ideas,'" says Dr. Covex, whose professional literature on child depression is used by caregivers around the world. She is not personal to him, he will just look at you as if you have fallen on your mind.

You can not do harm by asking about it, "she emphasizes."



And what happens if the child tells that he really has suicidal thoughts? "Children sometimes imagine death as relief, liberation, redemption," says Dr. Covacs.



Dr. Bosman offers a different explanation for suicidal thoughts in children. "I work with quite a few children who say things like 'I do not want to kill myself, but I feel so terrible that I do not know what else I can do or say.' If a child is talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts, the best thing to do is ask him / her what is meant? Such a statement can be an authentic sign of distress, so do not dismiss it as an attempt to attract attention or exaggeration.

Higher chance of depression in adulthood

The onset of depression in childhood is more likely to return later in life.

A long-term study published in 2016 followed children who showed depressive symptoms in childhood, and saw that bouts of depression tended to recur in adolescence and adulthood.



If you identify worrying signs such as behavioral changes, avoidance of activities, disturbances in sleep and eating patterns, etc., which last more than two weeks, it is advisable to seek professional advice.

One can start the diagnosis from the pediatrician who knows the child, and from there progress to a mental health professional who specializes in children of the relevant age.



The research evidence shows that early treatment has excellent effects on children with depression.

At young ages, the treatment will usually be family therapy or parent-child dyad therapy, which also provides the parent with guidance and tools to help the child in daily life.

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