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Childhood Depression – Causes and Signs of Depression

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Depression in Childhood – Causes and Signs

Every parent wants their child to enjoy good health and happiness. No parents wish for their little one to suffer from childhood depression, and we all want to help the child with depression or low mood to feel better. Many parents ask about depression causes in children, signs of depression and anxiety, and important ways to help your child feel their best.

In this blog, we have summarized essential depression causes in children and a few ways to deal with this situation effectively.

If you think your child has depression, anxiety, or other emotional disturbance, or if you are concerned for your child’s mental or physical health, please see your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room.


Important Depression Causes or stressors

Several stressors affect the emotional state of your child. Here we have summarized a few fundamental depression causes:


Family instability

Research demonstrates the correlation between depression and emotional disturbance in children due to family instability. Tension and conflict between caregivers and other family members can trigger psychological and physiological disturbances in children. Certainly, many children do not develop depression or mental health concerns when living through instability, but some do, as these conditions can be stressful and anxiety-provoking.


Family history of depression

Children are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety if there is a family history of the same. It is difficult to tease apart what is nature versus nurture. In other words, does the child have a higher risk of mental health problems due to genetics alone, or is it from something in their environment, such as watching a family member suffer from the emotional burden or financial or other challenges? It is multifactorial.

Other important causes of depression in a child include environmental factors, genetic vulnerability, various life events, and biochemical disturbances.


Signs of Depression in Teens and Children

If you have a child with depression, they may:

  • Act more argumentative or aggressive
  • Act impatiently
  • Be sleepier than usual (or sleep more or less)
  • Eat more or less
  • Be more forgetful
  • Be distracted
  • Be more sensitive
  • Get sick more often
  • Complain of frequent headaches or stomach aches
  • Have a change in their school performance
  • Be less interested in previously enjoyed activities
  • Have thoughts of death or suicide
  • Cry or have tantrums or meltdowns.


Depression treatment for Childhood Depression

Early detection of depression in childhood leads to early intervention and earlier and recovery.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques focus on identifying the cognitive distortions the child experiences. According to research, a child with depression has negative cognitive perceptions that lead to cognitive distortions, leading to flawed assumptions about the environment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy covers the following domains such as cognition, behavior, and physiology. In these domains, patients learn to rectify their negative thinking, enhance social skills, assertiveness, physical learning, and various mind relaxing techniques to soothe themselves.

Cognitive behavior therapy techniques lead to improved mood, less depression, and more confidence in kids who receive it.


Family Therapy

Family therapy focuses on the family within a ‘system’ and how family interactions may be contributing to the children’s mental health challenges. Family therapy focuses on family communication and relationships, looking for solutions and alternatives to the problem, or understanding the family dynamics differently.


Parent-Child Therapies

Parent-child therapies are best used in younger children. They focus on building parent-child relationships through play. When parent-child relationships are strengthened, children feel better about themselves and develop more confidence.


Depression Medication

There are a variety of medications available for childhood depression. Medications are not commonly prescribed for younger children, but they may be prescribed for adolescents. A psychiatrist, family doctor, or pediatrician can prescribe medication. Therapists typically recommend that therapy is started initially and that medication is considered if therapy alone is not helping. Evidence demonstrates that children who receive treatment along with medication, if needed, have better outcomes. Medication alone is inferior compared to medication plus therapy. Most commonly, medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to treat depression in children and be reviewed with you by your physician.

Depression responds best to a multidisciplinary and well-designed approach to enable a child or teen to feel better and decrease the risk of reoccurrence and persistence later in life.


Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is getting more attention recently as it grows in popularity. In this therapeutic stye, a well-trained companion animal, under experts’ supervision, is used to help children who suffer from mood disorders, emotional distress, and anxiety.


Important note:

If you find signs of depression and anxiety in your child, please touch base with your healthcare provider. If you are worried about your child’s safety, please go to your nearest emergency room. It is best to evaluate for mental health concerns in children earlier. Delayed assessment and management can prove more challenging. The goal is early identification and treatment for the best outcome.

Try to have an open dialogue with your child about how they are feeling.

What stresses do they face? What troubles them? Do they think they would benefit from chatting with someone who can help teach the strategies to best deal with any feelings of sadness or anxiety? An open and honest conversation can prove very helpful for your child. Normalizing how common it is to suffer from emotional disturbance can reassure your child, who may have heightened anxiety if they feel alone in their struggles.


  • Please do not ignore any signs of depression in your child. While emotional highs and lows are normal for kids and adults, persistence in a low mood, anxiety, or decreased function due to emotional challenges do need to be assessed.
  • Early identification, assessment, and treatment lead to a better outcome.
  • Talk to your doctor or therapist if you have concerns.
  • Get help! There are many treatment options, and there are many mental health experts to help your child and your family.



Dr. Dina Kulik

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM
Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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