Q.My daughter's grades are dropping and she doesn't like going to school (3rd grade). She doesn't have any close friends and seems sad a lot. Is she too young to be depressed?
A. The easy answer is no, she is not too young to have depression. In fact, children of almost any age can get depressed.
The more difficult question, if she really is depressed, is to figure out why. Is she being bullied at school? Does she have ADHD or a learning disability, so is underperforming at school, which has led to decreased self esteem and depression? Have there been any changes at home, such as a death in the family, recent move, divorce, etc.? How come she doesn't have any friends?
As in adults, children and adolescents who are depressed may have the following symptoms (the ones in bold are the ones that seem to apply to your child):
- Persistent sad or irritable mood
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Significant change in appetite or body weight
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms that are more characteristic of children and adolescents who are depressed include:
- Frequent vague, nonspecific physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches or tiredness
- Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
- Talk of or efforts to run away from home
- Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying
- Being bored
- Lack of interest in playing with friends
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Social isolation, poor communication
- Fear of death
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- Reckless behavior
- Difficulty with relationships
If you suspect that your child may be depressed, an evaluation with your Pediatrician and/or a mental health professional, such as a child psychiatrist or child psychologist, will be helpful. It would also likely help to set up a meeting at school with her counselors and teachers to figure out why her grades are dropping and why she doesn't have friends at school.
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