Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

What to Do if You Think Your Child Is Depressed


Am Fam Physician. 2000 Nov 15;62(10):2311-2312.

  See related article on depression in children and adolescents.

What should I do if I think my child or teen is depressed?

Ask your child about his or her thoughts and feelings. It may also be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your child's behavior and your concerns about depression. In most cases, taking your child to your doctor's office is a good idea. A medical problem may be causing the depression. Your doctor may want to give your child a general medical check-up and get some blood tests.

What are some of the signs of depression in young children and teens?

Infants and preschool children may have a poor appetite and may lose weight. You may notice that they don't seem to enjoy playing.

School-aged children may be less confident. They might feel like they can't do anything right. Older children and teens may stop caring about themselves or family members, may not want to go to school and, in general, may lose interest in life activities. Older children may also show signs of eating more and sleeping more, or eating less and sleeping less.

In some children, the only signs of depression may be headache, stomachache, not wanting to go to school or losing their temper. When these signs last for several weeks, they might mean your child is depressed.

Why do young people get depressed?

Here are some of the reasons children and teens might get depressed:

  • The family moves to another place to live.

  • The child has to change to a new school.

  • A pet or a friend dies.

  • Someone in the family is very sick.

  • The hormonal changes of puberty can cause depression.

What can be done to help depressed children and teens?

Medicine and counseling help children and teens who are depressed. Most depressed children and teens should talk to a counselor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist about what is making them feel the way they are feeling. Family counseling can help everyone in the family. Your family doctor can refer you and your child to someone for counseling

Medicines also can help treat depression. Most depressed children and teens do best when they get both counseling and medicine.

Where can I get more information about depression in children and teens?

American Psychiatric Association

1400 K St. NW

Washington DC 20005

Telephone: 1-202-682-6000

Web site:

American Psychological Association

750 First St. NE

Washington DC 20002-4242

Telephone: 1-202-336-5500

Web site:

NAMI—National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Colonial Place Three

2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300

Arlington VA 22201-3042

Telephone: 1-800-950-6264

Web site:

Federation of Families for Children's

Mental Health

1101 King St., Suite 420

Alexandria VA 22314

Telephone: 1-702-684-7710

Web site:

National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association

730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501

Chicago IL 60610-3526

Telephone: 1-800-806-3632

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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