Depression refers to persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. A lot of times there is no particular reason for the sadness that one feels which in turn promotes frustration. As a result, a person feels worn out most of the time and is unable to find pleasure in any activity.
Because depression is a serious mental illness, people associate it with adults who have to deal with a lot of stress on a daily basis. The reality is that depression can hit anyone at an age as young as 5 years. Childhood depression is a reality and can impact a child’s growth and social life.
Mental health is an uncommon topic in Pakistan generally but children’s mental health has become such a non-issue that there is no solid data available on the subject. According to one of the rare studies, conducted in a child psychiatry clinic in Pakistan, 62.5% of the children from a representative sample suffer from psychiatric disorders.
In this article, we are elaborating upon five signs that might be indicative of depression in children.
- Trouble in academics
The first and foremost sign of depression among children is their performance at school. If your child is otherwise mentally healthy and is unable to cope up with academics, then there is a high chance that he/she might be depressed. Dr. Sohail Ahmad who is a psychiatrist in Karachi deems declining grades a major sign of depression.
“Children can become depressed due to various reasons such as moving to a new school, bullying or a stressful environment at home. One of the big changes that you must not ignore is declining grades. Other signs include a lack of participation in extra-curricular activities. Ultimately, the child may completely refuse to attend school, in which case you should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist at once.”
- Lack of interest
Anhedonia or lack of pleasure in daily activities is a symptom of depression among adults. With children, the situation is also very similar although their anhedonia is different from adults. Where adults stop socializing and find hobbies meaningless, children stop playing. Children when depressed are likely to abandon their favorite toys or playmates. They also tend to stay indoors instead of playing outside and may also get annoyed if forced to go outside.
- Anger issues
Anger tantrums is another sign of depressive disorder among children. As mentioned in the previous section, children become a victim of anhedonia during the depression. If forced to participate in different activities, a depressed child might throw anger tantrums. He/she might misbehave with parents or act violently on minute things.
- Eating habits
Children are generally fond of food which is natural since they need a lot of energy to grow. In the case of depression, there is likely to be a big shift in the eating habits of a child. He/she might either start eating a lot or not eat at all. If your child is eating a lot or very less and wants to stay in bed all the time, there is a chance that he/she might be depressed.
- Fatigue and crying spells
Bouts of crying without any particular reason is another alarming sign of severe depression among children. In many cases, the child may complain of being fatigued and tired most of the time. In extreme cases, the child may also complain of physical symptoms such as a headache or stomach ache without any probable reason. In such cases, it is important to consult with a child specialist first so that any physical ailment is eliminated before meeting up with a child psychiatrist.
Childhood depression is a growing problem which is usually ignored in our society. If your child is depicting any of the above signs, you should not let it pass unnoticed. Depression in childhood can grow into teenage depression which comes with a great risk of suicide. Your child’s mental health is as much your duty as is his/her physical health.
This article was produced in partnership with oladoc.com, a digital health company in Pakistan. Using oladoc, you can find the best child specialist in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and book an appointment online.