Is my child depressed? Know the signs

A mom recently asked me: My child seems angry more often than not. He snaps at the slightest frustration and cries more often. If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder if he’s depressed. But young kids don’t get depressed, do they?


The signs of depression in younger children can look different than depression in teens and young adults. Younger children are less likely to tell you that they feel sad- often because they can not pinpoint what is wrong. Of course everyone is allowed periodic “bad days”, but when there are more “bad days” than “good days” action must be taken. Below are some warning signs that your child may be depressed:


-Feels down or sad much of the time

-Acts angry much of the time

-Acts “out of control” or has new behavior problems that seem resistant to your usual discipline   measures.

-Loses interest in activities which normally bring pleasure, withdraws from friends

-Exhibits changes in sleep patterns-difficulty falling asleep, numerous awakenings, or excess sleeping

-Has feelings of worthlessness (feelings she let a family member or teacher down, etc.)

-Finds it difficult to concentrate

-Performs worse in school, grades slip, or tries to avoid going to school

-Shows low energy or fatigue or conversely seems restless or “hyper”

-Alcohol or drug use (attempts at “self-medicating”)

-Expresses thoughts of being better off dead or desires to hurt himself.

If you suspect your child is depressed, ask him the hard questions. Ask him if he is thinking of hurting himself or others. Ask if he wants to commit suicide. You will not be “planting an idea.” Asking will allow you to find the medical help he needs immediately. Not asking may lead to death. We always tell patients and their parents not to hesitate to call “911” or go to the emergency room if the patient is suicidal. After all, it is an emergency– a life is at stake.

Sometimes it’s not your child who is depressed.Your child’s friend may confide that he or she is extremely sad and may tell your child to keep the information a secret. Let your child know that her friend is giving a “cry for help” and that it is appropriate to share information with adults.

Children and teens can have “real” depression just like adults and they need treatment from an experienced health care professional just like adults do. Consequences of untreated depression, just like adults, can include loss of enjoyment in life, estrangement from friends, school or job failure, and untimely death from suicide.

Naline Lai, MD and Julie Kardos, MD

© 2013 Two Peds in a Pod®
modified from original post from June 3,2010

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  • Reply child growth January 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Parents should pay attention to these signs of depression before it gets too late and it’s get difficult to help your child.Be free with your kids so that they feel comfortable enough to share each and everything with you and don’t take to take up steps such as suicide.If you really care about your child and want him happy always make sure you give them the attention they need.

  • Reply stop snoring May 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Really appreciate you sharing this article.Kids often get depressed and when they do we don’t even know it.The signs are vague. But if we see something unusual we must report instantly.Really helpful that it can be recognized.

  • Reply When a peer dies: How to help your grieving teenTwo Peds in a Pod® September 25, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    […] your pediatrician or a psychologist. For more signs of clinical depression in children, please see our post on child and teenage depression.  Also know that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is […]

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