Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(6):1048

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

Ask your child about his or her thoughts and feelings. It also may 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 do some blood tests.

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

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

School-aged children may seem 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 having a headache or 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?

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

  • The family moves to a new place.

  • The child has to change to a new school.

  • A pet, a friend, or a family member dies.

  • Someone in the family is very sick.

  • The child experiences the hormonal changes of puberty.

What can be done to help children and teens who are depressed?

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

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

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