Depression in Children: Numbers Are Rising

    September 30, 2013

“Children” and “depression” are two words no one wants to see put together, but according to a UK study, it appears that the occurrence of childhood depression is on the rise. The UK’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that around 80,000 children in the UK suffer from severe depression, and that depression affects children as young as five years of age.

The CDC reports that mental conditions in general are on the upswing in children, including depression, ADHD, anxiety and autism. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) says that it was formerly believed that children couldn’t get depressed, but doctors are now seeing depression in children in elementary school, and around 11 percent of adolescents are diagnosed with a depressive disorder by age 18.

The big question is, what is to blame for the increase in depression in kids? With the pressures of high school, it’s not as surprising that there are more older kids being diagnosed with depression, but thinking about a five-year-old kid who is just starting kindergarten being depressed is almost incomprehensible.

Some people believe technology is the culprit. As common as cyberbullying is, it’s not difficult to see how technology and depression could be related in older children, but that isn’t applicable in the younger kids who are just learning to read. Instead, technology is blamed in a perhaps less obvious way–with more kids sitting around playing games on tablets or other handheld devices, they aren’t moving around, going outside and getting enough exercise. Somewhere our parents are saying, “I told you so.”

Going outside and getting exercise are two key components to mental health. Not going outside and spending enough time soaking up the sun leads to a Vitamin D deficiency, which affects mood and is linked to depression. Lack of exercise can lead to a decrease in dopamine, which is often referred to as a “happy chemical” in our brains.

Depression Symptoms

If you are a parent or otherwise provide care for children, be on the lookout for some of the following symptoms of depression in children that are provided by WebMD. It’s important to note that a few of these symptoms being present once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean a child is depressed, but it is certainly something to track and bring up with the child’s primary care provider.

Irritability or anger.
Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Social withdrawal.
Increased sensitivity to rejection.
Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased.
Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep.
Vocal outbursts or crying.
Difficulty concentrating.
Fatigue and low energy.
Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment.
Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Impaired thinking or concentration.
Thoughts of death or suicide.

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