Understanding the Brain

Child depression

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Child depression is a mental illness in which a child feels worthless and is generally sad for a long time each day.

About five percent of children and adolescents suffer from depression at any given time.[1] Child depression can occur in both young children and teens. The signs are generally the same as adult depression. If a child has feelings of worthlessness, guilt, gets sick without reason, thinks of death, or becomes distant, he or she might be depressed. It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, disturbing environmental changes, sustained high levels of anxiety, unresolved emotional trauma, and more.[2] Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families.[3]

Episodes of child depression can last from six to nine months on average, but in some children, the episodes can last for years.[4] Childhood depression often goes unnoticed until symptoms are severe.[5]

Causes and symptoms

Child depression can be caused by many things, and the symptoms are sometimes hard to recognize. The symptoms and signs of child depression can include becoming uninterested about a topic the child used to enjoy, school grades dropping, bad sleep or sleeping for too long, getting bullied at school, loneliness or social isolation, frequent complaints of maladies such as headaches or stomachaches, and difficulty with relationships.


Treatment may include the use of antidepressant medication once the child is diagnosed and treated by a physician or qualified mental health professional. Pediatric massage therapy may have an immediate impact on a child's emotional state at the time of the massage, but sustained effects on depression have not been identified.[6]


  1. http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=The+Depressed+Child&section=Facts+for+Families
  2. http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/depression-in-childhood-and-adolescence-topic-overview
  3. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The Depressed Child, “Facts for Families,” No. 4 (5/08)
  4. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=by_illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=17623
  5. http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/depression-in-childhood-and-adolescence-topic-overview
  6. Jorm AF, Allen NB, O'Donnell CP, Parslow RA, Purcell R, Morgan AJ (October 2006). "Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for depression in children and adolescents". Med. J. Aust. 185 (7): 368–72. PMID 17014404.