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Child Anxiety and Depression

March 27th, 2023

We are used to thinking of depression and anxiety as mental health disorders that are only experienced by grown-ups. But while it is true that the life of an adult is a lot more stressful than that of a child, that is not to say that children cannot struggle with such disorders as well. However, while most adults will have the self-awareness to realize that they may need help with such a condition, the same cannot be said about a child. That is why it’s really important for parents to pay close attention to the behavioral clues of their children. 

Child Depression Image

Child Depression Image

Even if a child doesn’t have a frame of reference to figure out they are feeling depressed or anxious, if you spend enough time with them and are involved in their upbringing, you’ll easily notice any unusual behavioral changes that may indicate a potential mental health condition.

Signs that may indicate depression and anxiety in a child

Kids’ behaviors are dictated almost entirely by their current emotions, which can make it difficult to determine if a child is behaving as it is expected to for its age or if there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. However, there are still definitely potential red flags that could indicate that your kid is struggling mentally:

  • Continued sadness or another form of low mood, especially without an apparent reason.

  • Constant irritability and grumpiness.

  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm even for the things that the child normally enjoys, such as his favorite cartoon or toy.

  • Overall tiredness regardless of the amount of sleep.

As you can see, these common red flags are basically states that all children experience, but with the important difference that, in this case, these states continue over time. Remember that children, especially really young ones, change their moods all the time, and it is rare for one particular mood to stay for more than an hour or two. So if you notice that your kid has been feeling down for an extended period of time, then it’s possible that it may be struggling with depression or anxiety.

Here are some additional signs that are more situational, but are still possible indicators of a mental health condition:

  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual. 

  • Inability to concentrate on tasks that would normally keep the child focused.

  • Unusual indecisiveness and lack of confidence.

  • Overeating or undereating and rapid changes in weight.

  • Restlessness or lethargy.

  • Seeming lack of emotions.

  • Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.

As we said, these red flags are more situational because, for example, children do tend to be restless and unable to stay focused for long periods of time. However, if you know your child well and are familiar with their usual behavior, you’ll more easily notice any changes to that behavior, like the ones we just mentioned.

However, remember that, even if you suspect that your child might be depressed or have an anxiety disorder, it's important to bring them to a qualified professional, who can determine if that is truly the case, or if their change in behavior and mood is simply a by-product of growing up.

What causes anxiety and depression in children

A lot of the things that would make a grown-up depressed and anxious will glance off the mind of a child, because children aren’t concerned with things such as money, taxes, bills, responsibilities, and jobs. However, there are still definitely things that can lead to a child getting depressed or developing an anxiety disorder and more often than not, they are linked to what’s happening within the family. Examples of what can result in child depression and anxiety are:

  • Parents who don’t get along.

  • Emotional or physical abuse from a parent or another family member.

  • Indifference from the parents.

  • The loss of a family member (especially when not properly addressed by the parents and discussed with the child). 

Of course, there are also things that can happen outside a child’s home that can trigger such mental health disorders:

  • Bullying at school.

  • Falling behind in class.

  • Abuse from other people (teachers, tutors, etc.). 

Each of these potential causes of a mental health problem within a child requires a different approach in order to tackle, but in all cases, it is something that must definitely be dealt with as soon as possible. Therefore, if you notice that your child or a child you are taking care of is suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, do your best to figure out what might be the potential underlying cause of said condition. Of course, it could be nothing - some children are simply more predisposed to becoming depressed than others. However, until you are certain that there’s no specific reason for a kid’s depression or anxiety, you shouldn’t rule out any possibilities.

What to do if your kid is depressed or has anxiety disorder

If it is confirmed that your child has either (or both) of these conditions, it is important to understand that this isn’t the same as an adult suffering from depression/anxiety. The cause of the problem for your child might be something that seems miniscule to you, but could be a huge deal to the kid. Therefore, you ought to be patient and understanding and be there for them, so that they can always count on you when wanting to share their feelings and talk about their emotions. This is hugely important when it comes to working through their struggles and gradually overcoming them. Here, it’s also the place to mention that this is an approach that must be adopted by both parents, so be sure to also talk with your partner and explain to them the importance of encouraging the child to be open about their feelings and thoughts.

Additionally, you must make sure to follow established guidelines and heed to the advice of professionals. Especially when it comes to navigating a kid’s psyche, a lot of approaches may seem counter-intuitive, so it’s crucial that you know what you are doing. However, you can always start with an educational class on parenting skills that can be taken completely online. 

And, finally, remember never to rush things - if your kid needs time to work through a problem, you must give it to them. Things like this cannot and should not be forced if you truly want to help the child, so learning to be patient is essential. © · 2024