Signs that a child is depressed!

Adolescence is a period of significant transitions – both physiological and psychological. As children adapt to these changes, they are likely to experience several ups and downs. Not all children transition smoothly into adolescence and some may face emotional and psychological problems beyond the hormonal havoc happening in them. It is not as simple as moodiness or irritability, or confusion about who one really is. The negative emotionality seems to seep in to all areas of the adolescents’ life – be it personal, social, academic, or family. At such times, it becomes difficult to distinguish the turmoil and uncertainty from full-fledged clinical depression.

Here are a few pointers you need to look at, to see if your near and dear ones are suffering from Depression:

Emotional Changes

  • Negative Emotionality: Feeling dejected, sad, or unhappy for no apparent reason, which may also include uncontrolled bouts of crying.
  • Restlessness and agitation: Feelings of frustration or anger or hostility over seemingly trivial situations that could otherwise have been let go of; seen through behaviours such as pacing, fidgeting, inability to sit still, overwhelming emotional fluctuations.
  • Self doubt: An intense sense of guilt, shame, failure or unworthiness, often caused by indulging in self doubt.
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance.
  • Feeling helpless or having persistent feelings of emptiness and nothingness.
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation: Disinterest in activities. Sitting listlessly and avoiding even those simple daily living activities that were earlier pleasurable.

Thought related Changes

  • Preoccupied with negative experiences of the past, or engaging in exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism, often stemming from low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty in concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Feelings of hopelessness: Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak and believing that there’s nothing in life to look forward to.
  • Suicidal ideation: Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide as one feels that living seems to have no purpose. Wishing death upon self rather than leading a life without meaning.

 Physiological Changes

  • Excessive fatigue or loss of energy beyond simply being tired.
  • Physical slowness: Taking more than usual time to complete the tasks at hand and occasionally leaving them incomplete due to lack of sustained energy.
  • Significant sleep problems: Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping excessively, often requiring effort to just get out of bed.
  • Significant decrease in appetite that may lead to noticeable weight loss
  • Unexplained aches and pains: Suffering from acute headache or body ache without any prominent physical causes, or feeling heaviness in the body, etc. resulting in frequent visits to the sick room or in worst cases, absenteeism from school.

Social and Behavioural Changes

  • Social withdrawal: Lack of interest in mingling with friends and peers, preferably keeping to self. Staying aloof and being emotionally distant even with close family and friends.
  • Poor school performance: Due to concentration difficulty and inability to manage school work (lack of motivation and energy), the child’s grades may drop and so might his or her attendance.
  • Running away: In some instances, teens may run away from home or talk about running away as they are unable to figure out their current state of mind. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.
  • Engage in Self harm: As the emotional pain becomes unbearable, they may attempt to release the pain through physical harm to self such as cutting, burning, hitting, or excessive piercing.
  • Substance use: To ease their worries, they may resort to use of addictive substances such as alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self medicate.
  • Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt.

If you’re a parent and you think your child may be depressed — or you’re a teen and you think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don’t wait to get help. Share your concerns with a parent, a close friend, a teacher or someone else you trust.

By Ms. Asmita Dalvi

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