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If your child seems sad or down quite a lot of the time and you are worried that they may be depressed, we have outlined the signs and symptoms to look out for as well as the treatment options that are available to help them feel better going forward.

Growing up can be difficult. Children and adolescents have to face many ups and downs, including changing hormones, school and family pressures and fitting in with friends. At the minute, they are also facing uncertainties in relation to their future as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic.

If you have started to notice that your child is experiencing extreme low moods and appears to be sad for long periods of time, this could be an indication that they are dealing with depression.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a person to experience intense and enduring low moods.

The mental health condition not only affects adults, but children and adolescents too. It is becoming increasingly common in children and young people, and recent UK studies suggest that nearly one in four young people will experience its symptoms before the age of 19.

The feelings that they experience can be debilitating and stop a child from being able to function effectively in their day-to-day life or do the things that they used to enjoy.

What are the signs of depression to look out for?

Depression can sometimes present slightly differently in children and adolescents than it does in adults. Children who are showing signs of depression may seem moody or grumpy, or they may act out and get in trouble at home or at school.

The symptoms of depression can be grouped into three different categories - psychological, physical and social. You can find out more about these different groups of symptoms below:

Psychological symptoms

  • Sadness or low moods that don’t lift
  • Irritable, angry or grumpy a lot of the time
  • Crying and more emotional than usual
  • Poor concentration at home or school
  • Difficulties in making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Low self-esteem or lacking in confidence
  • Feelings of emptiness or numbness
  • Thoughts or expressions of causing harm to themselves
  • Other self-destructive behaviours

Physical symptoms

  • A major change in their sleeping pattern such as being unable to sleep, or sleeping more than usual
  • A major change in their eating habits, such as eating more or less than usual
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Feeling tired and exhausted all the time
  • Frequent complaints of physical illness such as headaches and stomach aches
  • Restlessness

Social symptoms

  • Decreased interest in activities they once enjoyed, or showing an inability to enjoy previous favourite activities
  • Poor communication, withdrawal from friends and family and spending more time alone in their room
  • Demonstrating a poor performance in school
  • Demonstrating problematic behaviour at school, including frequent absences

How can I help my child with depression?

Here we have outlined five steps you can take to help your child if they are displaying symptoms of depression:

  1. Learn about the symptoms of depression in children

If you suspect that your child is showing signs of depression, research into the symptoms. These can differ from those found in adults so by learning more, you can start to understand what they are going through and when they are having a particularly difficult time. This will also help you spot any warning signs early so you can intervene in a helpful way.

  1. Try talking to your child

It can be difficult to watch your child suffering with symptoms of depression; however it is not something that can be ignored in the hope it will go away. The best way you can help is to try talking to your child about what you have noticed in a caring, compassionate and non-judgemental way.

Try to find out what is troubling them and how they are feeling, without asking too many questions. If they are not willing to speak to you, let them know your concerns, that you are there for them and encourage them to speak to another adult who they trust and can confide in.

  1. Listen to their concerns and be open

Once you have been able to start a conversation with your child, the best thing you can do is to listen and empathise.

Reassure them that they can open up to you, and try to keep an open mind to what they are discussing with you. This will help them to understand that it’s ok to talk to you about these difficult emotions and that they are not alone.

  1. Take their concerns seriously and show compassion

Your child may talk to you about issues that don’t seem so important to you or such a big deal. But, to your child, they will be very important things that are causing them to feel the way they do.

Take everything they tell you seriously and don’t brush off anything as insignificant. Always try to be compassionate to their thoughts and feelings.

  1. Seek professional help for your child

Ultimately, it is very important to seek professional help if you believe that your child is depressed. Depression is treatable; however, it is important that your child receives the dedicated support that they need to prevent their depression from worsening and continuing to affect their health and wellbeing.

Support available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai

If you feel that your child may need professional help, receiving the right support from a professional psychologist is an important step to take. To book an appointment

At Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai, we have several clinicians that provide therapy to children and adolescents in both English and Arabic. Treatment for mental health conditions such as, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphic and mood disorders.

To find out more about mental health support offered for children at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai, or to book an appointment, call +971 4 245 3800 to speak to one of our administrative team today in confidence, or submit an online enquiry form.

Tanya Dharamshi, Counsellor

This page was clinically reviewed by Tanya Dharamshi (BSW, MSc Psych, Counsellor, DHCC, UAE). Tanya brings 18+ years of counselling experience in trauma, crisis intervention, child abuse, substance addiction, attachment disorder, depression, anxiety, stress, bereavement, couples therapy, mood disorders, chronic illness and adjustment disorder. View Tanya's full profile here.