About Depression It's normal for kids to feel sad, down, or irritated, or to be in bad moods from time to time. But when negative feelings and thoughts linger for a long time and limit a child's ability to function normally, it might be depression. Depression is a type of mood disorder. The main sign is when kids are sad, discouraged, or irritable for weeks, months, or even longer. Another sign a kid might have depression is negative thinking. This includes focusing on problems and faults, being mostly critical and self-critical, and complaining a lot. Depression can interfere with energy, concentration, sleep, and appetite. Kids with depression may lose interest in activities and schoolwork, seem tired, give up easily, or withdraw from friends or family. When kids have depression, it's hard for them to make an effort, even when doing things they used to enjoy. Depression can make kids feel worthless, rejected, or unlovable. It can make everyday problems seem more difficult than they actually are. When depression is severe, it can lead kids to think about self-harm or suicide. Recognizing Depression It can be hard for parents and other adults to know when a child is depressed. An irritable or angry mood might seem like a bad attitude or disrespect. Low energy and lack of interest might look like not trying. Parents (and kids and teens themselves) may not realize that these can be signs of depression. Because depression can show up in different ways and might be hard to see, it helps to let a doctor know if feelings of sadness or bad moods seem to go on for a few weeks.. Diagnosing Depression and Other Mood Disorders When diagnosing depression and similar mood disorders, doctors and mental health professionals use different categories. They all have depressed mood as a main symptom, but they develop in different ways. For example: Major depression is an intense episode of depression that has developed recently and has lasted for at least 2 weeks. Chronic depression (also called dysthymia) is a milder depression that has developed more gradually, and has lasted for 2 years or longer. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is depression that has developed after an upsetting event — anything from a natural disaster to a death in the family. Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that is related to light exposure. It develops when hours of daylight are shorter; for example, during winter months. Bipolar disorder (also called manic depression or bipolar depression) is a condition that includes episodes of major depression and, at other times, episodes of mania (emotional highs). Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is a pattern of intense, frequent temper tantrums; outbursts of aggression and anger; and a usual mood of irritability that has lasted for at least a year in a child older than 6. Getting Help Depression and other mood disorders can get better with the right attention and care. But problems also can continue or get worse if they're not treated. If you think your child might be depressed or has a problem with moods: Talk with your child about depression and moods. Kids might ignore, hide, or deny how they feel. Or they might not realize that they're depressed. Older kids and teens might act like they don't want help, but talk with them anyway. Listen, offer your support, and show love. Schedule a visit to your child's pediatrician. The doctor will probably do a complete physical exam. A full exam lets the doctor check your child for other health conditions that could cause depression-like symptoms. If the doctor thinks your child has depression, or a similar mood disorder, he or she may refer you to a specialist for evaluation and treatment. Contact a mental health specialist. Depression can get better. But without help, it can last or get worse. A child or adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist can evaluate your child and recommend treatment. Therapists treat depression and other mood disorders with talk therapy, sometimes medicine, or both. Parent counseling is often part of the treatment, too. It focuses on ways parents can best support and respond to a kid or teen going through depression. More Ways to Help Treatment with a therapist is important. But you play an important role, too. At home, these simple but powerful things can help your child deal with depression. Be sure your child eats nutritious foods, gets enough sleep, and gets daily physical activity. These have positive effects on mood. Enjoy time together. Spend time with your child doing things you both can enjoy. Go for a walk, play a game, cook, make a craft, watch a funny movie. Gently encouraging positive emotions and moods (such as enjoyment, relaxation, amusement, and pleasure) can slowly help to overcome the depressed moods that are part of depression. Be patient and kind. When depression causes kids and teens to act grumpy and irritable, it's easy for parents to become frustrated or angry. Remind yourself that these moods are part of depression, not intentional disrespect. Avoid arguing back or using harsh words. Try to stay patient and understanding. A positive relationship with a parent helps strengthen a child's resilience against depression. Back to Articles Related Articles Word! Depression It's normal to feel sad sometimes, but if you feel that way for a long time, and you never feel happy, it's called depression. Read More Seasonal Affective Disorder A person with SAD typically experiences symptoms of depression as winter approaches and daylight hours become shorter. Read More Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Kids and teens who live through a traumatic event can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Healing is possible with the help of professional counseling and support from loved ones. Read More Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Sometimes after experiencing a traumatic event, a person has a strong and lingering reaction known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Getting treatment and support can make all the difference. Read More Death and Grief If someone close to you has died, you probably feel overwhelmed with grief. Read about some things that might help you cope. Read More Going to a Therapist Getting help with emotions or stress is the same as getting help with a medical problem like asthma or diabetes. This article explains how therapy works and how it can help with problems. Read More Seasonal Affective Disorder Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects some people and appears at the same time each year. Read More Stress & Coping Center Visit our stress and coping center for advice on how to handle stress, including different stressful situations. Read More Finding Low-Cost Mental Health Care If you need mental health care but don't think you can afford it, you're not alone. Get tips on finding low-cost or free mental health care in this article for teens. Read More Childhood Stress Being a kid doesn't always mean being carefree - even the youngest tots worry. Find out what stresses kids out and how to help them cope. Read More Depression Depression is very common. For more information about depression and feeling better, check out this article. Read More Cutting It can be hard to understand, but people who cut themselves sometimes do it because it actually makes them feel better. They are overflowing with emotions - like sadness, depression, or anger - that they have trouble expressing. Read More Helping Teens Who Cut Cutting isn't new, but this form of self-injury has been in the spotlight more in recent years. Learn more how to help a teen who cuts. Read More 5 Ways to Help Yourself Through Depression It's important to take action against depression - it doesn't just go away on its own. In addition to getting professional help, here are 5 ways to feel better. Read More About Teen Suicide When a teen commits suicide, everyone is affected. The reasons behind a suicide or attempted suicide can be complex, but often there are warning signs. Read More Talking to Parents About Depression If you feel depressed, you need to reach out for help and support. Read our tips for teens on talking to parents about depression. Read More Bipolar Disorder Bipolar disorders are one of several medical conditions called depressive disorders that affect the way a person's brain functions. Find out more about bipolar disorder. Read More Why Am I So Sad? Feeling down? Got the blues? Everyone feels sad sometimes. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Sadness and Depression Everyone is sad once in a while. But depression is a sadness that goes on too long and hurts too much. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Taking Your Child to a Therapist Many children and teens have problems that affect how they feel, act, or learn. Going to therapy helps them cope better, feel better, and do better. Read More Why Do People Get Depressed? There's no one reason why people get depressed - many different things can play a role. Find out more about the things that can trigger depression. Read More When Depression Is Severe Severe depression can cloud a person's thinking and lead some people to think that life isn't worth living. But severe depression can be treated. Find out what to do and how to get help in this article for teens. Read More A to Z: Bipolar Disorder Learn about depressive disorders, mental illnesses, and conditions that affect moods and the brain. Read More My Friend Is Talking About Suicide. What Should I Do? Have you heard that people who talk about suicide won't go through with it? That's not true. Read this article to learn some of the other warning signs that a person is considering suicide. Read More Suicide We all feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions or situations sometimes. Here are the warning signs of suicide and ways to get help. Read More Anxiety Disorders Anxiety is a normal part of growing up, and all kids experience it. But when it becomes extreme, it can interfere with a child's overall happiness. Read More Cutting Cutting isn't new, but this form of self-injury has been in the spotlight more in recent years. Learn more about it and ways to help a teen who cuts. Read More Going to a Therapist What's it like to go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist? Find out in this article for kids. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.