5 Telltale Signs Your Child is Struggling with Depression

A child struggling with depression looking into space
Something seems to be off with your child, but you can’t put your finger on it. They say they’re okay, but you can tell something is bothering them.

One question you might be asking yourself is, “Does my child have depression?

Understanding your child can be challenging. After all, many young people can be prone to unruly behaviour or swift mood changes, and it’s part of growing up, especially around puberty.

Remember, you know your child better than anyone. So, if you think something else is going on—even when pushing past surface-level behaviour—then, more than likely, something is indeed wrong.

Consider these five telltale signs that your child might be struggling with depression.

1. Low Energy Level

One sign that your child is struggling with depression is that they have a lower than usual energy.

Of course, not every child will be the energetic kind, bouncing off the walls and such.

Yet, even calm children will still have the energy to play, explore, and interact with their parents and friends.

Consider if your child’s energy has changed recently. For example, do they seem sluggish or tired most of the time? Do they have less energy for or interest in the things they typically enjoy?

2. Troubling Thoughts

Another telltale sign of depression in children is when they experience dark thoughts.

These thoughts may be troubling and even frightening to your child. Also, it’s unlikely your child will come out and tell you about the negative thoughts in their mind. Yet, their thoughts will still bubble to the surface.

One way to identify negative thoughts is by observing any art your child creates, including doodles or sketches. Have they been drawing pictures that seem troubling to you?

Another observant strategy is to listen closely to the words or phrases they use. When a young person is depressed, they might use more negative, darker language, catching you off guard. Such language can be particularly apparent on social media or in conversations with friends.

3. Increased Anger or Defiance

Anger and defiance can affect anyone struggling with depression, whether they are an adult or a child.

When you are depressed, your ability to cope with stressful situations diminishes. As a result, you may become grumpy and quickly lash out at others at the drop of a hat.

Think about it for a moment. Has your child become more surly and angry lately? Have you found yourself asking how a seemingly minor disagreement could blow up into a raging argument?

While such mood changes are common during adolescence, they can be a sign of depression, too. Again, careful observation is the key.

4. Changes in Eating Habits

Your child’s eating habits might also be affected by depression.

On the one hand, they may choose to refrain from eating, while on the other, they might overeat. These differences in eating patterns can lead to noticeable fluctuations in their weight.

If they are not eating enough, they may be feeling too sad or have too little energy to care about eating. While eating too much might indicate your child is using food to cope with their uncomfortable feelings.

Either way, unhealthy eating habits are harmful not just to their mental health but also to their physical health.

5. Altered Sleep Patterns

Did your child fall asleep quickly but now struggles to get a whole night’s rest? Do they wake up feeling groggy, which only sours their mood?

Kids need sleep: it’s crucial to their development. However, depression can have adverse effects on sleep patterns.

Some depressed children may not get enough sleep as spiralling thoughts keep them awake. Others may go the other way, sleeping to numb the pain they feel.

Either way, these altered sleep patterns make it hard for them to function when they are awake.

Poor sleep can reduce our ability to focus or concentrate on the tasks at hand, affecting our ability to think or perform complex tasks. As a result, schoolwork, exam grades and general performance can decline.

Is it just adolescence?

Many of the signs of depression we have discussed can be associated with growing up, too. However, if you notice multiple signs that your child might be suffering from depression, take heed. The longer depression is left untreated, the harder it is to resolve.

Be Aware of the Time Frame

It is important to note how long your child has been displaying signs of depression and whether or not the symptoms of depression are getting worse.

Of course, you can’t make a diagnosis. But, you can be aware of how long your child has had symptoms that might indicate depression.

In general, if your child has displayed symptoms for two weeks or more, it’s time to seek help.

Getting Help

As a parent, you only want the best for your child and ensure that they are happy. Yet, you might feel powerless when depression strikes, possibly blaming yourself, even.

By knowing the telltale signs of depression, you can make sure your child gets the help they need as soon as possible. And the earlier depression is identified, the easier it can be to address

Please reach out today if you’d like support navigating this challenging condition. In addition to private counselling services like our own, your GP might offer advice, and some schools now provide a counselling service. You can also contact the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS).

If you want to talk with someone about your concerns, please call us on 0151 329 3637 or complete our online referral form. You can also email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk. It is far better to address your concerns early. Call today.


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