Understanding Anxiety And Depression In Children
Children are an infinite fountain of excitement, enthusiasm and happiness. They careen around with the abandon of someone who has yet to understand the duties and responsibilities of adulthood and can wring joy out of any situation, however mundane… At least that’s what we assume. While many kids are bubbling with energy, usually active and often smiling, this does not mean that they are not immune to the same mental health issues that adults experience. Mental health can have a profound effect on both parent and child and the longer a parent waits before addressing it, the more negative the experience is likely to be. Whether you’re a parent experiencing mental health difficulties or you suspect that your child may be manifesting them, in the spirit of World Mental Health Day taking place this week, let’s take a look at ways in which we can positively influence our children’s (and, indeed our own) mental health.
The power of understanding
They say that prevention is the best cure and understanding is undeniably the best prevention. Parents are experts at educating themselves and while you could study a master of education school counselling degree online, knowing how to identify and effectively deal with your childrens’ negative thoughts is a great start. Parents are, of course the first line of defense when it comes to combatting low mood and negative thoughts. It’s your responsibility to identify periods of low mood and help them to address it healthily (easier said than done, especially when dealing with teenagers). Adolescents, after all, are a powder keg of hormones and their behavior is likely to become increasingly erratic as they reach adolescence. That said, there are some common signifiers of anxiety and depression in children and young people including…
- Erratic mood
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating on even simple tasks
- Absenteeism or refusing to go to school
- Slipping grades
- Changes in eating habits (including under or over eating).
- Sudden bouts of anger
- Mood swings
- Frequent bouts of sadness or tearfulness
- Declining to take place in family activities
- Withdrawing into their room
- Spending less time with friends
- Loss of energy and enthusiasm
Depression and dysthymia: Knowing the difference
While these are common symptoms of depression in children and young people, it’s also important to accurately diagnose what kind of depression they are experiencing as this will increase your chances of dealing with it effectively.
Dysthymia- Is a chronic form of depression which is temporary but can last for long periods of time before passing, typically manifesting for two years and over. Mental health care professionals are still divided as to the cause but it is unconnected to traumatic events or family history of depression and is believed to be caused by abnormal function in the brain circuits that control mood. While those experiencing dysthymia can lapse into major depression they tend to be less at risk than the clinically depressed.
Clinical Depression- Clinical depression or major depressive disorder is less common in children and usually the result of difficult or traumatic experiences that manifest themselves in strong feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred.
As with all mental health conditions the best thing you can do is aim for a diagnosis as soon as possible followed by a course of cognitive and pharmacological treatment. And of course… Listening.