A depressive disorder or depression is typically characterised as a mood disorder which goes above the usually blue mood, it goes beyond the average sadness and grief an individual feels. Someone suffering from Depression may not only experience sadness and negative thoughts but may also lose interest in their daily activities or activities they liked doing before viz. eating, sleeping, talking, sexual activity. They may also develop aches across their body and might not want to continue living. These individuals often have suicidal thoughts and may also resort to self-harming.
Initially, the general public did not believe that children could suffer from a severe condition like this and had highly invalidated children who did experience depression but over time with growing research being done in this field, people have been growing more and more tolerant and accepting mental health issues although we have a long time to go.
Depression is quite common at every age and has been estimated to affect more than 16% of children at some point in their lives and it has been seen to be increasing in children and adolescents. Children may suffer from episodes of moderate to severe depression which can be associated with major depressive disorder, or dysthymia according to best psychologist in India. Depression may also manifest as a part of other mood disorders namely bipolar disorder or might be a result of a child’s exposure to some particular medications or drug abuse. While all of the aforementioned reasons could be hypothesised to be the reason for a child’s depression, it is important to understand that a single factor does not contribute to this condition, a number of biological, psychological, and environmental elements can also play a part.
Biological depression is characterised by a deficit of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain also, a relatively smaller size of some areas of the brain can cause an increased activity in other parts of the brain. Female children are more likely to report having childhood depression but that could either be due to biological factors or sociological factors as to how females are socialised and encouraged to be in touch with their emotions and interpret them more than males are. There are also genetic elements out of which the most prominent is that children who are more likely to report having depression typically have a parent who had or has been diagnosed with depression, these children are four times more likely to develop depression than the average child. Children who also have low birth weight, are suffering from a physical condition, have trouble sleeping, or have a mother who gave them birth when she was 18 years old or was near that are also likely to develop depression. Psychological issues like low self-esteem, negative social skills, negative body image among others have also been characterised to have contributed to childhood depression. Children who suffer from ADHD, or clinical anxiety, or have cognitive or learning disabilities are also likely to develop it.
There may be changes with appetite and weight
They may be feeling irritable, sad, always in tears
They may be feeling a lack of energy
They may be feeling some guilts or ashamed of something from the past or may feel that they may do something wrong
They may be having trouble in concentration
There may be a loss of interest in activities which they used to enjoy earlier
They may be feeling agitated
There may be recurrent thoughts of suicide or they may be thinking of death
There may be some sleep disturbances like insomnia or excessive sleeping
Apart from this they may be having some physical issues like stomach aches, headaches or they may also indulge in substance use with poor performance in school.
Some common causes of depression in children are stressful life events and divorce of parents. But genetics may also play a significant role in it. The causes may be as follows:
Brain chemistry: When there is some imbalance in the neurotransmitters and hormones, it will affect the way the brain works. This will affect the mood and emotions in turn.
Environmental factor: When the environment is stressful and chaotic, it may also affect the children and make them go into depression.
Family history: Research has proved that children who have a history of parents or anyone in the family with any mood disorders, are at a higher risk of depression.
Stress and trauma: Some changes like after the divorce of the parents or moving into another house or some trauma like losing a loved one, an abuse or an assault may also affect the thinking pattern of the child and make the child depressed. This may be because for a short period or long period also.
For the treatment process, typically paediatricians and primary care doctors are approached for diagnosis first for childhood depression, may be due to the social stigma around it. It becomes important though to approach mental health counsellors who are efficient in this particular field. While receiving the treatment, family support becomes truly important for a child. The family should encourage a healthy mental state, good lifestyle habits, and also encourage the child to be more in touch with their feelings. With the right approach, techniques, and good support and love around, the child feels reassured and it helps them heal faster.