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It is estimated that depression affects 2.5% of children in the United States.   It is estimated by the end of the teen years, 20% of all teens will experience teen depression.  Depression in children frequently goes undiagnosed due to parents and adults close to a child thinking the emotions and actions the child is encountering is normal.  Depression among children can be hard to spot, but there are certain signs and symptoms that can help you differentiate depression and more normal changes in teen behavior.

Children and adolescents usually experience an array of emotions over the course of a day, which can make it difficult to associate various emotions with depression or a child just having a bad day.  Experiences that affect a child’s mood can include getting made fun of from other children, getting bullied on the playground, and struggling with schoolwork.

How to Spot Depression in Children

Depression is classified as a prolonged sadness in which a child or adult can have feelings of intense sadness, and/or feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless.  Throughout childhood, there are dozen’s, if not hundreds of times when experiences such as getting a bad grade on a test or losing a sports game that can make a kid feel sad or down.  This is a normal reaction in both children and adults.  By staying in tune with your child’s life, you are more likely to be able to correctly spot whether a bad mood is the cause of a temporary event or if it’s more prolonged part of a child’s life .  Generally speaking, a two-week period or longer of severe sadness or having a difficult time finding enjoyment in things that once brought them joy and happiness is an indication that a child may be depressed.   To complicate matters, adolescents and teens can also show anger and aggression when depressed, making it even harder for parents and adults to spot depression in their children.

Children at Risk of Depression

Children who have a family history of depression are more likely to experience depression than children without a family history of depression. Children with parents that have substance abuse issues such as overuse of alcohol or the use of drugs are more likely to experience a depressive episode during their childhood.  In addition, children with chaotic families are more likely to experience a major depressive episode.

Who does Depression Affect?

Depression can affect people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.

Numbers collected over a 12-month period in which an individual had a major depressive episode. Sample population between 12-17 years old


Male – 5.3%
Female – 16.2% (Women are 70% more likely to have a major depressive episode than men during their lifetime.)


12 – 4.4%
13– 7.6%
14 – 11%
15– 13.8%
16 – 13.1%
17 – 13.2%

Ethnicity and Depression among Adolescents

White – 10.9%
African American – 8.6%
Hispanic – 11.4%
Asian – 10.2%
Native American or Alaska Native – 4.5%

What Causes Depression in Children?

Typically, depression is a combination of environmental, genetic, biological, and psychological factors.  Depressive episodes in children and adolescents can be caused by situational occurrences such as a loss of a loved one, divorce of parents, social pressures, and other instances that can affect a child’s overall well being.

While depression is often times genetic, it can also happen to those who have no family history of depression.

Common Depression Symptoms

  • Extended periods of sadness (over 2 weeks)
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Cannot find happiness in things that once brought one joy
  • Loss of appetite or over eating
  • Excessive crying or vocal outburst
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Pessimistic thoughts or feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping

How to Treat Depression

After a child is diagnosed with depression, a combination of psychological sessions / treatments and medication is a common when depression. Unlike other illnesses that can be treated with a single surgery or prescribed medication, changes in a child’s life choices, environment, and therapy are instrumental in treatment and recovery.

At Strategic Behavioral Center – Charlotte, patients are first evaluated and if depression is diagnosed, we then with work with the patient and involved parties to come up with a personalized treatment plan for recovery.

Contact Us today, we are able to help!

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