Depression looks different at different ages, because developmental stages affect the picture. If you think your child is depressed, or if a teacher has mentioned the possibility to you, you can ask for a thorough physical and psychological assessment to be done by a child psychiatrist. Your family doctor can arrange this for you.
Depression in infants is rare, and is usually a sign of serious problems. The infant will be listless and apathetic, feed poorly and be unresponsive to people. He or she may sleep poorly and cry and whine. The facial expression is apprehensive or expressionless. This condition is usually seen in overcrowded orphanages where there is little touching or holding of the infants. The condition is reversible; a child placed with a sensitive, stable, caring family can develop mentally and emotionally with no lasting problems. This is important to know if you are thinking of adopting from a developing country.
Preschoolers have no concept of the future or of cause and effect, so they are unable to express complex feelings such as guilt. Instead, the distressed feelings are shown through Behaviors and body discomforts. A preschooler who is depressed may be restless and overactive, and unable to enjoy playing any more. He or she will complain of aches and pains, particularly headaches and stomachaches, and may be whiny and clingy with you, and fearful of new situations. The child may also be irritable and have temper tantrums over minor frustrations. You may have trouble keeping your patience if nothing seems to make your child happy.
Children of Elementary-School Age
When school-aged children are depressed, they may be moody, irritable and very sensitive to any criticism or rejection. They drag themselves around, sleep poorly, have trouble getting up in the morning, and show little interest in friends or activities. If you ask them, they’ll say they’re unhappy. Their schoolwork may drop off suddenly, or they may refuse to go to school altogether. They may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. They may get into trouble at home and at school because of provocative and aggressive Behavior, and may be irritable with other children as well. They may even run away from home, or make suicidal statements such as ¡®I wish I had never been born’ or ¡®I hope I get run over by a car’. A more ominous sign of suicidal intent occurs when the child starts giving away favourite belongings.