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  • Depression and Kids: What Parents Need to Know

    Does my kid have depression?

    Our society is becoming more and more aware of the warning signs of depression. Many of us may be able to recognize the symptoms in an adult. Changes in diet, sleep disturbance, lethargy, irritability, tearfulness, suicidal thoughts, and fatigue are a few examples of how depression may manifest in an adult. These may also indicate depression in a child, depending on the severity.  However, for preteens the presentation may differ. According to the DSM-V (a diagnostic manual for mental health care providers), depression before the age of 12 may look more like this:

    • Severe and recurrent temper outbursts (verbal or physical rage) that seem inconsistent with the child’s age
    • Consistent irritable or angry mood throughout the day
    • Tearfulness and sadness
    • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
    • Notable changes in appetite

    If these symptoms have lasted for more than a few months, your child may be suffering from depression.

    Why does that matter?


    A wealth of research indicates that depression is one of the most prevalent disorders in the U.S. (see Merikangas & He, 2014).  As adults have been the focus of most of that research, we are less informed about the impact of childhood-onset depression.  Therefore, early detection and treatment is critical for a healthy developmental trajectory. Furthermore, studies have shown certain neurodevelopmental changes that co-occur with depression in kids and adolescents.  For example, a study by Casement et al. (2014) found that the reward pathways in the brain are altered in teens who suffer depression.  This would change how the teen experiences feelings of happiness and pleasure, potentially long term. In other words, depression seems to affect the wiring and growth of the brain.

    What causes depression in kids?


    Depression is often sparked when someone loses something or someone they love.  For a child, this may include loss of a parent through divorce, a stressful home environment, loss of a pet, or even an injury that prevents them from playing sports. However, depression can be caused by a myriad of stressors (i.e. an imbalanced diet, drug use, head injury, negative social experiences, abuse, etc.).  The bottom line is that depression has a substantial impact at the social, psychological, and even biological level. Remember, this is a highly prevalent illness and therefore fairly common. However, as a parent, you have the power to help your child overcome their depression.

    What can we do to help?


    Although we cannot prevent it from happening, and although the effects of this illness are devastating, depression is very treatable. If you feel like you or your child suffer from depression, the best thing you can do is to seek help from a qualified mental health care provider.  Therapy is considered to be an effective means of treatment, and a combination of therapy and medication is proven to be the most effective. Here at Diamond Bar Counseling in Diamond Bar California, we want to help you and your child conquer depression.  We also provide diagnostic impressions and help with a referral process if medication is required.


    Click on “Appointment Request” to schedule your first session.  Together, we will get you and your family back on track to a happy, healthy future.




    Merikangas, K. R., & He, J. (2014). Epidemiology of mental disorders in children and adolescents. From Research to Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 19.

    Casement, M. D., Guyer, A. E., Hipwell, A. E., McAloon, R. L., Hoffmann, A. M., Keenan, K. E., & Forbes, E. E. (2014). Girls’ challenging social experiences in early adolescence predict neural response to rewards and depressive symptoms. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 8, 18-27.

    – Darshana Doshi

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