Depression is a medical condition that, while often treated as taboo and not taken seriously, is quite serious. It can affect the ability of a child to form social connections with their family and friends in a negative way. It will hamper their ability to enjoy the normal day-to-day activities, concentrate on school and enjoy the overall experience of their childhood.
The best place to start is to get them properly diagnosed and treated. However, it takes time and effort to work through depression, and there can often be relapses. Something that helps a lot is to know what to expect throughout the process and when you should seek professional help.
Sala Joyner is a child psychologist that provides Baltimore depression treatment. We got in touch with her to walk us through what a parent should expect in different circumstances for their child and what to do.
The Symptoms of Depression
When you’re dealing with adults, the main feature of depression is a depressed mood that persists for at least two weeks. For kids, it can be a little more subtle. A depressed kid is more likely to show irritability. Here are some symptoms you should look out for:
- They are sad, irritable, withdrawn and often bored
- They do not enjoy the normal daily activities
- They sleep either too little or too much
- They gain weight or lose weight
- They feel helpless or hopeless
- Have a hard time making decisions or concentrating
- They suffer from fatigue
- They often think of death and consider suicide
What Should You Expect From Treatment Procedures?
It takes a lot of time to treat childhood depression and, sometimes, it’s a process of trial and error. We should also remember the fact that children are not the same and what works for one child may not necessarily work for the next. The best thing is to be patient throughout the process and help your child to feel and be safe.
The Education of the Child
The first step is always the most important and, in this case, that step is to educate your child about depression. It will help them understand what might have possibly caused their depression, such as stress, bullying, environmental factors and genetics. You should also help them understand the chemistry of their brain, such as the low serotonin levels they may have, and try to help them to reduce self-blame. It also helps to normalize for your child what they’re going through, which makes it easier to deal with.
Taking your child through counseling is always a good option. There are many options here, and some may work better for your child than others. For teenagers, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be quite effective. For younger children, play therapy may be the best option. At any rate, expect it to take a while to find the best therapist to match your child. Make as many calls as you need to and ask as many questions as you need to. You know your child better than anyone else, and you’re entitled to seek the best for them.
It might be necessary to medicate your child when the depression is especially severe. However, medication only works when you couple it up with counseling. You should also manage the medication, and the prescribing physician should supervise your child closely.
For the most severe cases of depression, especially those where the child has started to be suicidal, it might be necessary to hospitalize them.
Whatever you do, understand that your child needs you and your patient more than anything at this time. Depression can be difficult for the patient and those closest to them, but with patience and determination, it can be overcome.