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Strategies to Fight Childhood Depression

adapted from maxliving.com

When someone struggles with depression, life can feel painful and difficult. Getting out of bed can feel like a big chore. Basic tasks such as brushing your teeth and making breakfast feel hard.  Because we are all unique, we experience the symptoms of depression differently. (1) That said, the most common symptoms include sadness, irritability, not wanting to engage in activities, and feeling hopeless and worthless. Some people who are depressed think about suicide. (2)

These symptoms take their toll on sleep, eating, focusing, and much more. (3) Anyone can suffer from depression, including children. Kids might mask that depression or express it differently than adults do. (4)

Unfortunately, we have few effective options to address childhood depression. (5) One promising approach is to address the nutrient deficiencies that underlie this condition. (6) Researchers have especially studied the omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught seafood, which show promise to help relieve depression. Eating wild-caught seafood several times a week provides these critical fatty acids. Most children don’t eat enough fish, which makes supplementing with

MaxKidsomega + D3 is ideal.

Depression is Not “Just a Phase” for Children

Everyone feels a bit down sometimes. But depression is very different from “feeling blue.”  Parents might be tempted to dismiss those feelings with “What do children have to be depressed about?” Even today, mental illness is taboo. Talking about childhood depression can be uncomfortable. (7)

But depression is very real, with damaging repercussions. Left untreated, childhood depression can lead to stronger, more prolonged depression and even suicide. (8) Depression can impact your child’s health right now, but it can also lead to poor health later in life. (9)

Some children are more susceptible than others. If you have a family history of depression or other mood disorders, your child or teen is more likely to struggle too. Likewise, if your child has a chronic or severe medical condition, he or she has a higher likelihood of depression. (10)

But depression can impact any child, regardless of family history or other factors. Not addressing this condition can lead to worse problems down the line. (11) In fact, depressive disorders create the highest burden of disease across all medical conditions for children and teens. (12)

Depression’s Impact During Childhood

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3.2 percent of children have diagnosed depression. That’s about 1.9 million people ages three to 17.13 For some children, depression overlaps with other problems including anxiety and behavior problems. (14)

The number of kids with depression has increased over time: From 5.4 percent in 2003 to 8.4 percent in 2011–2012. As kids get older, depression can become more common. Adolescents between 12 and 17 are much more common to have depression than children ages six to 11. (15) Gender also plays a role. Depression significantly impacts in boys under 10. By age 16, however, depression is more common in girls. Females between ages 12 and 17 are three times more likely to undergo a first depressive episode compared with males. (16)

There is never one specific thing that creates depression. Instead, many things can contribute, including:

  • Physical health

  • Life events

  • Family history of depression

  • Alcohol and drug abuse17

What should you look for to determine whether your child is depressed? Sadness, feeling hopeless, and mood changes are the most common signs. Beyond that, children can display depression in many ways. (18) Some of the most common signs include:

  • Being irritable and/ or angry  

  • Aches, pains, restlessness, and other physical symptoms, especially with younger children

  • Not being interested in social or pleasurable activities

  • Problems concentrating

  • Changing sleep patterns

  • Appetite or weight changes 

  • Showing hopelessness or low self-worth (19)

You’ll especially want to remain aware of symptoms that might suggest suicide or suicidal behavior. Like depression itself, these signs will differ among each child. (20)

Getting Professional Help For Childhood Depression

Please don’t dismiss these and other symptoms as a passing mood. If they occur for at least two weeks, consult your healthcare practitioner. He or she can determine any potential physical reasons for these symptoms and ensure your child receives proper treatment. (21)

Worth repeating: Because every child and teen is different, these and other symptoms will differ for every person. Kids may display different symptoms when they’re, say, at the dinner table and when they’re with their peers. Some children might appear to function fine.  For most kids with depression, however, you’ll see a noticeable change in social activities, academic performance, and appearance. Children over 12 might also start using drugs or alcohol. (22 )

Difficult as addressing these things can be, getting your child the right help for depression will help him or her grow healthy physically and emotionally as a teen and into adulthood. (23) Before being diagnosed with depression, a healthcare professional will undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to rule out medical or other conditions including nutrient deficiencies and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (24)

How your healthcare practitioner addresses depression will depend on things including how severe symptoms are. (25) He or she might propose Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/ or antidepressant medications. (26)

Typically, this approach will be similar to addressing depression in adults: Some sort of counseling, medication, or a combination of these two. For mild symptoms, some experts recommend counseling first, and then medications if things don’t improve. (27)

If your healthcare practitioner suggests antidepressants, carefully discuss the pros and cons, including potential warning signs you should watch for if your child takes these medications.28 While medications such as antidepressants can help in some situations, they carry major side effects sometimes. 

Antidepressants carry a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning about a risk of increased suicidal thinking and behavior for some people under 25. These medications can also trigger anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness or impulsive behavior. (29)