Depression in Children and Adolescents

July 18, 2004

Depression among children and adolescents is common, but often goes over-looked and under-treated. It affects one percent of preschoolers, two percent of children under the age of thirteen and five to eight percent of adolescents. (Son, Sung 2000) Depression becomes more significant with middle adolescents. Young woman are more likely to become depressed than young men by a two to one ratio. (Jacques, Heather 2004) Depression is more than being sad, gloomy, and down in the dumps. Depression is a disorder that affects many areas of personal functioning, like the behavioral, emotional, somatic, and cognitive areas. This ultimately causes interruptions with daily life activities. It becomes harder to think quickly and focus attention, making it difficult to perform in school. The frequent moodiness and emotional outbursts cause tension within the family. It affects friendships, when a depressed person becomes antisocial, aggressive and argumentative. (Evens, Julia 2002) Also, depressed youngsters are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, perform self-injury, and demonstrate suicide ideation.

Infants and children may show signs of depression through a loss of appetite and weight. Many times these children do not enjoy playing alone or with their peers. Many times they will seem less confident, feeling as if they can not do anything right. Older Children might show signs of depression by not wanting to go to school, and caring less about themselves or family members. Sometimes the only sign of depression a child will show is somatic, the child will complain about stomachaches and headaches. The following are some reasons a children or adolescents might become depressed:

· The family moves to a new town

· Change of school

· A family, close friend, or pet dies

· A sick family member

· Hormonal changes due to puberty

A depressed adolescent carries many interpersonal difficulties. The cognitions of depressed adolescents are characterized by distortions in “attributions, self-evaluations, and information processing”. Depressed adolescents are more apt to portray positive occurrences as an effect to external factors that they cannot control, and interpret negative affairs as completely their fault. Many times, depressed adolescent thoughts are about negative views about ones self, an empty future, and a negative world. This leads to a distortion of experiences and a “display of information processing errors, such as, over generalizing predictions of negative events, and selectively attending to the negative features of the events”. (Evens, Julia 2002)

When an adolescent is depressed, new experiences are directed through a filter of negative views and dejected feelings. “No matter how bright the day is, how many goals are accomplished, or how many compliments are received, the adolescent with depression tends to find some flaw or reason for self-criticism.” The depressed adolescent dooms themselves to having a miserable day filled with bad experiences. (Evens, Julia 2002)

Many times depressed adolescents are so oblivious that their thought processes are flawed. This is because they are more prone to mistakes in logical thinking resulting from “inexperience and undeveloped abstract reasoning”. They are unable to have a positive outlook on life resulting from a useless and helpless point of view. “Their self-perceptions and self-evaluations reflect these information-processing distortions” resulting in a lack of problem solving skills. A depressed adolescent sets stricter standards for their performance and judge themselves more negatively than their non depressed peers. (Evens, Julia 2002)

Self-Injury has increased in the past decade. Over three million people have caused self-injuries, most of them being adolescent and female. Self-harm is associated with depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and a history of trauma or abuse. Some examples of self-injury are cutting, head banging, burning, pin/needle sticking, excessive scratching, rubbing, and scab picking. A person who commits self-harm is not suicidal. It is actually a self-preservation act. "The first cut is a result of a large insult or catastrophe, and the second cut takes less provocation. The third cut takes even less, and the next thing you know you are cutting because you anticipate having a bad day, and after that they cut because they are at a low point in [their] mood cycle, and then finally they cut because it has been too long since the last cut." The result is self-destructing behavior. Many experts agree that self-injury is not attention-seeking behavior. Self-injury is a way of coping with