Is My Child Clinically Depressed?

How do I know if my child has depression or is just "moody"? Do I need to bring my child to a therapist? What does it mean if my child is constantly agitated?

It is common for someone to think of sadness as the biggest indicator of depression. However, depression in children shows itself in a different way. Children who are depressed can show agitation and irritability

Agitation and irritability are common in all children and adolescents. So how can you know if your child is actually experiencing depression? Below is a list of 9 symptoms that can help indicate if your child is clinically depressed:

  1. Your child is agitated or irritable daily. This agitation could affect how your child plays with others, could cause them to have problems in school, or your child might argue with you constantly. Your child could be showing signs of sadness additionally.

  2. Your child no longer enjoys doing activities they used to enjoy. An example of this could be your son enjoyed playing on the school basketball team last year, but this year he does not even want to try out for the team.

  3. Your child might be underweight and not meeting the appropriate weight for his or her age group. Or your child might have an increased appetite and is in a high percentile of weight for his or her age group.

  4. Your child is sleeping more hours than usual and takes naps frequently. Or your child stays up all hours of the night.

  5. Your child has seemed to have slowed down emotionally and physically. An example would be that your child's speech has become slower.

  6. Your child feels tired most days or daily.

  7. Your child feels guilty when it is not necessarily appropriate to be feeling that way. Or your child might feel worthlessness such as feeling he or she cannot do anything right.

  8. Your child has a hard time concentrating on one thing at a time. Or your child is very indecisive and takes a long time making decisions.

  9. Your child thinks about death constantly. Or your child has thoughts of wanting to die or harm himself or herself in any way.*

It is important to note that your child might be experiencing 1 or 2 of these symptoms, but that does not indicate that he or she is clinically depressed. If you find yourself saying YES MY CHILD EXPERIENCES MOST OF THESE then it would be a good idea to reach out to a professional psychotherapist for an evaluation. 

*If your child, or yourself, has any suicidal thoughts please reach out for professional help immediately. If your child, or yourself, has a plan to harm themselves, or yourself, you can call the crisis hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, you can call 911, or go to your nearest hospital.

The sooner you get your child help, the easier the depression will be to treat. The best time for treatment is when you start noticing these symptoms as a parent. Even if these symptoms are mild, it could be good to get an evaluation done by a professional. That professional can then give you guidance and advice going forward. 


Courtney Glashow, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.


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