Symptoms and Signs of Depression in Children and Adolescents
Depression in children and teens is not rare. However, because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary phase or is suffering from depression. Here is a list of symptoms and signs to help identify when a child is suffering from depression.
Symptoms of Depression Common to Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Common symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Unexplained anger or irritability
- Increased worrying
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Significant change in appetite or body weight
- Early morning awakening
- Changes in sleep patterns, includes too little or too much sleep
- Psychomotor disturbance or delay
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Signs of Depression That May Be Present in Children and Adolescents
- Frequent vague, nonspecific physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or tiredness
- Not wanting to go to school, which can lead to frequent absences and poor performance
- Pretending to be sick
- Outbursts of shouting, complaining, or crying
- Difficulty with relationships, including social isolation or poor communication
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Clinging to parent
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- Reckless behavior
- Fear of death
Note : Not every depressed child will experience every symptom. The severity of symptoms will vary from child to child. Depression can be serious, but it is treatable. If your child is showing any of these signs and symptoms, talk with your child's doctor.
American Psychological Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906140/Depression-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated January 18, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2017.
Depression in children and teens. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/depression-in-children-and-teens/. Updated August 2012. Accessed January 18, 2017.
How do children and adolescents experience depression? National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/depression-in-children-and-adolescents.shtml. Updated October 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017.
Symptoms of depression. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/depression.html. Updated August 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017.
Last reviewed January 2017 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 1/16/2015