Causes of Depression in Teens and Children
Although depression’s symptoms can be representative of other problems, it is important to assess whether or not these behaviors and emotions are a sudden change for your child or teen. It is often the case that these symptoms may be identified as another problem (e.g., ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder) at home or at school. However, many times, depression, which is often overlooked, can be the underlying cause of poor behavior, changes in behavior, learning problems, etc.
It is especially important to remember that preschool children and young elementary school children do not have the vocabulary to express how they may be feeling. Thus they may show signs of depression in ways which differ from how adults reveal their depression.
Commonality of Depression in Teens and Children
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 11.2% percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. The same research shows that female teens are twice as likely to experience a depressive episode than male teens.
About 2.5% of children (under 12) in the United States suffer from depression. Depression is more common in boys under the age of 10 than in girls. However, as stated above, it is more likely for teenage girls to suffer from depression than it is for teenage boys to struggle with the symptoms of depression.
Diagnosis of Depression in Teens and Children
Depression in teens and children can be difficult to diagnose because young people may not be able to verbalize exactly how they feel as well as adults. In addition, when diagnosing an adolescent, it is important for the clinician to take into consideration that it is typical for adolescents to experience mood swings.
Diagnosing a child or adolescent often occurs after the client and the therapist have spent ample time together in individual therapy or family therapy understanding the root of the problem that has brought them into treatment. Sometimes, however, a diagnosis is made after a psychological assessment is conducted that aims to identify how the individual is functioning and what symptoms may be interfering with their ability to function at school, home, and in their social relationships. The therapist may also recommend a medical evaluation in order to rule out any health related problems that could be contributing to the depressive symptoms.
Treatment of Depression in Teens and Children
At Equilibria Kids, our child specialists in Philadelphia incorporate behavioral management tools, cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy and creative arts activities to empower children and teens. Equilibria’s child psychologists teach children and teens how to work through their depression and learn healthy, adaptive ways of expressing their feelings.
With older children and teens, an evaluation is completed either during the therapeutic process or through a formal psychological evaluation (depending on the client’s needs) at the start of treatment. This psychological evaluation aides in identifying the most effective, research-informed approach to treating a teen’s depression.