Depression in children and teens (as well as adults) is caused by a mix of factors, including physiological factors like imbalances in brain chemistry, genetics, and family, social, school or lifestyle factors. Depression is not simply being sad or feeling “blue.” Depression may be associated with increased internet and social media use. It is a serious medical condition that requires professional intervention to help resolve it and to avoid serious consequences like eating disorders, self-harm or even suicide attempts.
Depression can cause a variety of symptoms in children and adolescents, and identifying symptoms is not always easy. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Not every adolescent will have all of these symptoms, and symptoms can change over time. Symptoms of depression in children are often misdiagnosed as “growing pains,” puberty-related issues or simply the normal course of childhood development. Parents who believe their adolescent suffers from depression should seek medical guidance right away so treatment can begin as soon as possible.
There are no specific tests for depression, but there are several tools that can help determine if a child is suffering from the condition. Questionnaires, personal health histories and interviews with adolescents, parents and sometimes even school officials can help recognize some of the most common symptoms or traits associated with depression to aid in the diagnosis. Counseling sessions may also help in revealing depression, as well as other conditions that may be present, like ADHD, Asperger's syndrome or chronic anxiety disorders.
Treatment will depend on the symptoms and the underlying causes of depression. Most adolescents who suffer from depression benefit from a combination of medication to balance brain chemistry and counseling to deal with emotional issues. Recent research suggests diet, exercise and even use of Omega-3 supplements may produce a significant improvement in depression.
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