At times, children may experience bouts of sadness. They may not only feel sad but they may also show little interest in the activities that they once enjoyed. Children may feel helpless or hopeless in situations that they cannot change. Depression is a mental illness which is characterized by prolonged emotional symptoms including:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
- Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
- Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
- Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
- Having a hard time paying attention
- Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
- Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior
Diagnosing depression involves a psychiatric evaluation and physical tests to determine whether a person’s symptoms are actually being caused by a different disorder. A person must have been experiencing symptoms for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression. Symptoms may not be recognized and children are often labeled as oppositional, lazy or unmotivated. Every case is unique and requires individual attention, but there are a number of effective complementary ways of treating depression, including:
- I use cognitive behavioral therapy as well as play therapy. For teens, I use Dialectical behavioral therapy if they experience emotional instability.
- Medication (Not always)
- Family therapy and parent support if indicated. A child's mental health is often impact by family dynamics and their environment.
Anxiety can be experienced by children when they become overwhelmed with fear and worries in the school, home, or social environments. Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed. Children with anxiety will often experience:
- Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
- Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
- Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
- Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
- Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)
I use cognitive behavioral therapy and gradual exposure. Again, medication may be indicated for some and there may be a need for family therapy and parental support.