Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child who shows changes in behavior is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression. It’s an important question because about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression, and the risk for depression increases as a child gets older.
According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44. In the past, people believed that children could not get depression. Teens with depression were often dismissed as being moody or difficult. Today we know that youth who have depression may show signs that are slightly different from the typical adult symptoms of depression. Children who are depressed may complain of feeling sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or caregiver, or worry excessively that a parent may die. Older children and teens may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, or feel misunderstood.
Many psychiatric disorders (ADHD, bipolar disorder, social phobia, etc) begin to show signs and symptoms during childhood. Early intervention and treatment is essential in reducing the severity of the problems associated with these disorders and can help children and adolescents live full, healthy lives as adults.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)