When parents are told about childhood depression, a majority do not understand the concept. It is unimaginable for them to think that their children could be unhappy . “We adults have to put up with bosses, pay bills, the mortgage, do housework … If I didn’t have to, I’d be happy, my son doesn’t have to do any of that, therefore, I don’t understand why it’s not happy.”
Childhood depression is defined as “a major sadness disorder that lasts in time and intensity.” Both children and adults have different concepts of what life is and what can be expected of it, therefore, the criteria for determining whether or not a child has depression are different from those of adults. Therefore, we have to learn to identify when a child is really depressed and when he is only sad . Sadness in a child is a normal feeling that everyone goes through from time to time. For example, when a pet with which they had a great bond dies (not a simple fish or a haaster)) or when your best friend moves to another city. All children will go through similar situations at some point in their lives. When we talk about a depressed state in children, that sadness is much greater. When we see desolation and hopelessness. When we look at his face and it gives us the impression that that child is never going to be happy again .
HOW TO DETECT CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION
According to the DSM-IV-TR manual of mental disorders (APA, 2000), we can diagnose childhood depression when at least five of the following symptoms appear for two or more weeks:
1) Depressed or irritable mood : the child will feel anger, fits of anger, cries easily, frustration, sadness … He is hopeless. The child feels guilty, useless, worthless … He says he wants to run away from home, wants to die, etc.
2) You do not take pleasure in activities or hobbies you used to do . He isolates himself from other children, he does not feel like going out to the park, he no longer plays the games he used to love (soccer, board games, consoles, etc.)
3) Weight loss or gain (less frequent) not expected for a child of his age.
4) Difficulties sleeping or staying asleep.
5) Psychomotor changes : abnormal slowing of movements or excessive motor activity. For example, they are children with a low tone of voice or who barely speak, who take a long time to respond, inability to remain seated, continuously rub their hands, skin, etc.
6) You feel excessively tired even though you have not made physical efforts . It takes a world for him to do chores or small jobs, and if he does them, it takes too long for a child his age.
7) Excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness . The child has a very bad self-concept, has low self-esteem. In adolescents, there is also a growing decrease in personal hygiene. In general, these children do not have a realistic assessment of themselves. Anything that goes wrong is proof of your flaws, and the good is pure luck. Small past mistakes produce feelings of responsibility that are exaggerated and he lives the future with apprehension.
8) Difficulties thinking and making decisions. They have a lack of concentration and it is difficult for them to remember things, it seems that they are in Babia. Children who are easily distracted, who seem not to hear you when you speak to them directly, therefore, academic performance is markedly reduced.
9) Thoughts related to death or suicide. They have the conviction that their loved ones would be better off if they died. Recurring thoughts about death or suicide are ALWAYS an alarm that should never be ignored, even if the child is believed to only say it to get attention. We must not tempt our luck . In some cases, children have been seen not only with sadness but also with elaborate suicide plans , where the day, time and place had been set. Unfortunately, a small percentage of them achieve their goal.
Finally, these symptoms cannot be produced by other problems such as the use of medications, illnesses, the effect of drugs , loss of a close person or family member, and lastly, the presence of other mental disorders.
RISK FACTORS FOR CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION
As we all know, prevention is better than cure, but as in other disorders or diseases there are no direct causes that produce it, but rather we have to talk about risk factors, those that will contribute or facilitate the appearance of the problem.
-Family life: perhaps the most important. A bad family environment influences the development of depression. Frequent fights between parents (more than divorce itself ) increase children’s chances of developing a depressive disorder. In addition, both the contempt of the parents and the overprotection of the parents increase the possibilities. Finally, a high relationship has been observed when one of the parents has a mental disorder, but it does not necessarily have to be depression, it can be any other.
-Stressful situations experienced: some events of daily life can be experienced by the child as a great source of stress. For example the birth of a sibling or the death of a close relative.
– Personality : children who are shy and introverted are more vulnerable to suffering from it. Even more so if the family environment contributes to it.
TREATMENT OF CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION
Childhood depression is complex and difficult to treat, its treatment is not always effective and it can worsen over time: For this reason, in the event of any suspicion we have to take our child quickly to a specialist who will advise us. The most appropriate option is a child psychologist or psychiatrist who will prescribe treatment for the child and intervention guidelines for the parents.
For our part, parents must support the child in the treatment process.
– Continuously reinforce and stimulate him , propose new activities , try to schedule meals and sleep schedules . Comply with all the guidelines that the professional gives us.
-On the other hand, routines will be very beneficial for children because most of them have great emotional instability. Following some schedules or customs will bring you well-being and security.
– Inform the teachers so that they understand the situation your child is going through.
-Finally , spend more time with him, give him more attention , ask him to help you with housework … Make him feel loved, useful and necessary (not “needed”).