To be able to motivate ourselves to do something, we need to be healthy. Then we manage to get up early in the morning and start the day invigorated. Healthy people eat breakfast, go to work or school and do their other tasks in the afternoon or evening (schoolwork, housework, raising children,…)
Not everyone gets their daily routine together the way it should be. Some people don’t even get out of bed in the morning because they can’t bring themselves to do anything.
They are bored with everything and everyone. Others feel overwhelmed when they are asked to complete a task. Often, this is not laziness, but a serious mental illness.
This illness occurs in adults as well as children and adolescents and is called depression. Depressed people always seem quiet and sad. They are very passive and hardly motivatable. It is not uncommon for depression to occur in combination with severe anxiety. This can have many causes and is considered a serious disorder.
Because this disease affects more and more children, we would like to explain to you today exactly what depression is all about.
Table of contents
Clinical Picture Of Depression
Depending on the age, depression manifests itself in different ways. Because it is about you, we would like to focus today on the signs of depression in children and adolescents.
Signs In Children Up To 12 Years
Even babies can suffer from depressive episodes, for example, when they lose a caregiver. Then they become very quiet, don’t gain much weight, and don’t grow as fast as they should. In short, they develop much more slowly than their peers.
Depressed toddlers have a hard time learning anything new. That’s why they start walking, eating by themselves, and going potty relatively late. Some don’t talk at all or start talking later than others. They are somewhat clumsy, have nightmares, and whine frequently. Depressed toddlers are very affectionate, but may also be listless. Self-injurious behavior such as banging their head against the wall may occur as early as toddlerhood.
By school age, it is noticeable that these kids are less curious than others. They accept many things as they are because they have no desire to learn. Because they themselves do not know how to have fun while playing, they intervene destructively in the play of other children and thus make themselves unpopular. They hardly develop joy in movement and therefore often cannot swim or ride a bike. In addition, there are disturbances in eating and sleeping behavior. They also complain of pain and revert to behaviors familiar to toddlers (e.g., thumb sucking). Inferiority complexes come along and make social contact more difficult. An inferiority complex is when the child feels inferior. So he thinks that he is worth less than others. Then, for example, he claims that no one loves him or wants to be friends with him. Of course, this is not true.
It is not until the kids get older that the symptoms of depression become quite apparent. At school age, you notice that these kids are depressed and anxious. They would rather not take risks and hold back. Depressed kids usually think more about themselves than healthy ones. They can be very self-critical and develop strong feelings of guilt for things for which they are actually not responsible. Especially at school age, depressed kids have difficulty concentrating and sometimes have memory problems. As a result, they lose their motivation and desire to learn, if they ever had any. In their free time, however, the kids don’t necessarily fare any better. This is because they have problems keeping themselves busy. Instead, some eat a lot and become fat. Others eat far too little and lose weight. Already at school age, suicidal fantasies or even suicide attempts can occur. The older the kids get, the greater the danger they actually pose.
Signs In Teenagers Up To 18 Years
With teenagers, it is somewhat difficult not to confuse depressive symptoms with the typical signs of the onset of puberty. That’s because pubescent teens naturally go through a difficult time, too – even if they’re not depressed. They also suffer from mood swings. That’s why depression at this age often remains hidden and is dismissed as pubescent behavior.
Because kids at this age usually withdraw a bit from adults anyway, it’s also hard to help them in case of depression. This is because adolescents are not infrequently suspicious of adults and closed off. This is the point at which they turn to alcohol and drugs to “cure” themselves.
Because kids want to hide their weakness, they react to objects and people. Vandalism brings them into conflict with the law and increasingly aggravates the situation.
Depressed teenagers tend to have eating disorders and headaches, as well as sleep disorders. Many girls tend toward bulimia or anorexia. Others try to sleep as much as possible because they have no desire for real life. Here, too, there is a risk of confusion with normal puberty. This is because adolescents generally have a high need for sleep.
Unlike healthy pubescents, however, depressed adolescents exhibit psychological symptoms such as sadness, brooding, hopelessness and resignation. They have inferiority complexes and feel completely overwhelmed by their school, social and emotional situation. Many isolate themselves as much as possible from the outside world in order not to have to suffer any further negative experiences. They want to avoid anything that triggers unpleasant feelings in them.
Especially those adolescents who isolate themselves strongly from others secretly harbor the desire to end their lives. That’s why the suicide rate rises dangerously in adolescence compared to childhood. Kids between the ages of 15 and 19 are especially at risk.
That’s why it’s especially important for adolescents to be educated about their own illness as early as possible and to get appropriate help. Even the knowledge that a mental illness is to blame for unpleasant feelings has a relieving effect on many young people
Causes For The Development Of Depression
In principle, there are no differences between children and adults in terms of the causes for the development of depression. Both groups experience events over a longer period of time that favor depression.
Strokes Of Fate And Family Circumstances
Kids who have lost a parent at a very early age are particularly at risk. Deaths in the family environment can be a cause, as can cases of abuse, violence or neglect by parents or family members.
If a parent develops a chronic illness, most kids feel overwhelmed. They feel guilty about not being able to help their parents and don’t know what to do. This overwhelm makes them feel hopeless and promotes mental illness.
Cases Of Depression In The Family
In addition to the above-mentioned influences, the family history may also play a role. If one of the parents was already affected by depression, there is also an increased risk of depression in the kids. This is because, in addition to external circumstances, a genetic predisposition can also trigger this illness.
In addition, depressed parents are often unable to provide for their children in the way they would need. The emotional needs of the children in particular cannot be met, which in turn promotes the development of depression in the child.
Changes In Life
Children who are already anxious or unstable cannot withstand major changes in their lives. Starting school means a lot of stress for them and can throw them off balance.
Arguments with friends, failures at school, bullying or heartbreak can also trigger a depressive episode. It usually takes the confluence of several of these factors to actually manifest an illness.
Help For Depression
Before you can take action, you first need the judgment of an expert. The first course of action when depression is suspected is to see your family doctor. He can issue a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist to get to the bottom of the matter.
If depression is actually diagnosed, there is no reason to despair. Because with it one is already a good piece further. After all, you know what you’re dealing with and can fight it.
There are special child and adolescent psychotherapists for children and adolescents. In case of family problems, the support of social workers or social pedagogues might be necessary. Information about this can be found in child protection centers, at the youth welfare office or at the family counseling center.
Most kids get outpatient treatment. This means that you do not have to stay in the hospital until you are well again. Then it is enough to take prescribed medication and attend regular appointments with the therapist.
In more serious cases, it may be that only inpatient treatment in adolescent psychiatry will help. This is specifically necessary when kids and teens put themselves or others in danger because of their illness. If a child has attempted suicide, has a tendency to commit suicide, has taken drugs, or wants to run away, then a stay in the youth psychiatric ward is usually necessary. Even if it is necessary for doctors to monitor the medication or if the child is acutely very unwell, outpatient treatment is not sufficient.
After a suicide attempt, the child also needs shielding from the things that caused the child to commit suicide. So a stay in an adolescent psychiatric ward not only provides quick help, but also protection.
If other mental illnesses come into play, then the child’s health must be clarified as an inpatient. This can take a while, but is necessary in order to exclude new suicide attempts.
Stay In The Adolescent Psychiatric Ward
There is no need to be afraid of an inpatient stay in an adolescent psychiatric ward. In the meantime, things are very friendly there. Children are treated appropriately for their age and experience a relatively normal everyday life with everything that goes with it. There are social pedagogues on site who play with them and talk to them about their condition.
At the same time, the kids are given medication. This means that they are closely monitored to see which medications work and do good and which do not. This would not be possible with outpatient treatment.
The kids have regular appointments with their psychotherapists. In this way, the causes of mental illness can be worked through. This not only helps against the illness itself but also makes it possible to change life circumstances if necessary. For example, a doctor may discover that the child is not getting what it needs from its parents. Often the truth only comes to light in psychotherapy. If you find out that a child is being beaten, abused, or neglected, you can intervene and improve his or her living conditions.
If desired, it is of course possible to receive visits from friends, family members and acquaintances during the stay.
Healing Words – Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is also urgently needed in less serious cases. It helps the child not to fall back into an unhealthy behavior pattern despite outpatient treatment.
Many kids learn to understand themselves better in psychotherapy. They are then no longer so angry with themselves and can slowly refrain from self-injurious behavior. The feelings of guilt become less and they learn to love themselves again.
Depending on the type of concomitant illnesses and the extent of the depression, there are various medications that can alleviate the symptoms. With these, it is possible to pick oneself up again and actively participate in life. Some medications help to concentrate at school and to remember the material.
Others make it easier to fall asleep and calm nerves as well as thoughts. Most antidepressants (the name given to drugs that help against depression) have a positive effect on mood. One is then able to feel happy again. This brings a degree of normality to everyday life that had previously been lost.
Any treatment with antidepressants should always be accompanied by psychotherapy. This is because the drugs help to improve the mood quite quickly at the moment. But to get to the bottom of the actual problems, it takes many conversations with a therapist in whom you confide.
Sports And Sunlight
Kids who are prone to depression should do as much sport as possible in the fresh air. This is because it helps them reduce stress hormones, which would put additional strain on them.
In addition, natural sunlight also has a positive effect on mood. If we spend at least one hour in the sun every day, the messenger substances in the brain function better. In addition, the body can then produce vitamin D. This is produced by the influence of natural UV light under the skin. It is necessary to maintain the immune system and contributes significantly to keeping the body healthy.
Light Therapy In Winter
Winter can be quite a time of year for us. Not only adults, but kids can also suffer from the change of seasons. They are tired and listless in winter with decreasing sunlight. In this case, light therapy helps. With a kind of small flashlight you are illuminated. This imitates natural sunlight and has a positive effect on your mood.
If you are interested in light therapy, talk to your family doctor or pediatrician about it, or bring it up during psychotherapy.
Finding Your Way Back To Daily Structure
If you have been depressed for a long period of time, it is difficult to find your way back to your usual daily routine.
Because the depression has a paralyzing effect, so to speak, one has become sluggish and slow. This can even go so far that the simplest actions become difficult. That is why it is necessary to try to slowly build up a daily structure again. Daily structure means filling the day with content. Because it is not good for anyone to sit in front of the TV all day with nothing to do.
There are special day structure programs where depressed kids, teens and adults meet to spend the day together. They cook, clean and do whatever else needs to be done. Sometimes they do crafts together or make neat things.
Day structure is usually part of the stay at the child and adolescent psychiatric unit. But there are also outpatient programs for kids who live at home
Depression is usually associated with an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. In particular, the balance of the good mood hormone serotonin is disturbed in depressives.
Many foods contain substances that can contribute to a better balance of these substances. In order to remain healthy in the long term, even after stopping antidepressants, children who have once experienced depression should pay particular attention to a balanced diet that contains a good mix of fruits, vegetables, grains and animal foods.
Worksheet For The Text
1) Explain the difficult words from the text.
- Daily structure
2) How does depression manifest itself in children and adolescents your age? What are the symptoms?
3) To prevent depression and bad moods, do something good for yourself once in a while. Develop your personal good mood list by writing down activities that you enjoy and feel good about. Whenever you are under stress or not feeling well, you should take a look at this list and do something that is on it.
Photo: Twin Design / bigstockphoto.com