You are here

Depression

It is normal for young people to feel sad, moody and irritable. It is also normal for young people to briefly and occasionally have trouble concentrating or making decisions, feel like they aren’t enjoying their normal activities, feel hopeless or feel tired. When these feelings persist, are unmanageable and impact children’s daily lives for longer than two weeks, your child may have a depressive disorder. Parents should be alarmed if their children are experiencing these feelings and also lose/gain weight, have trouble sleeping (eg. sleeping too little or sleeping too much), feel restless/lethargic, are hurting themselves (eg. cutting or burning) or think about death or suicide.

Frequency

Depressive disorders are common; approximately 6 % of young people have a depressive disorder. Starting in early adolescence, depressive disorders are up to three times more common in girls than in boys. Depression is more common in 18 to 29 year olds than in any other age group. Frighteningly, suicide is the leading cause of death of Australian young people and accounts for more young people’s deaths than car accidents (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, 2012).

Cause

There are many causes of depressive disorders, including temperament, genetics and environmental factors. Some children are more likely to develop a depressive disorder because they are perfectionists, have low self esteem, are critical of themselves, are sensitive to criticism from others, tend to have a negative outlook on the world or tend to worry. Some children are more likely to develop a depressive disorder because they inherit the genetic likelihood from their parents. Finally, some children may develop a depressive disorder from having experienced an ongoing difficulty in life (such as a serious medical illness, ongoing abuse or drug/alcohol abuse) or having experienced a stressful event (eg. a disaster, a major change, etc.). 

Outcomes

Many depressive disorders develop during puberty and will persist into adulthood if they are untreated. With appropriate intervention most children with depressive disorders can develop skills that challenge their thinking so that they see the world differently and thrive in their daily lives.

Crisis

If your child has a plan to die by suicide or has attempted suicide, your child is in crisis and needs immediate assistance. Please supervise your child, at all times, until your child is under the supervision of a qualified professional. Seek emergency, professional help by:

  • Calling Emergency (000) and asking for an ambulance or
  • Going to the emergency department at your local hospital.

Find more information below about the different types of depression, how we determine if your child has depression and how we treat your depressed child. If you believe your child might be depressed and you would like us to help, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

Types of depression

Major depressive disorder

Children with major depressive disorder have a persistent depressed mood (eg. feel sad, empty, irritable or hopeless) or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks that significantly interferes with their daily functioning. They also have at least four of the following symptoms:

  • have thoughts of death or suicide,
  • feel fatigued or have low energy,
  • sleep too little or sleep too much,
  • feel worthless or excessively guilty ,
  • are unable to think, concentrate or make decisions,
  • have rapid or slow body movements and speech and/or
  • lose/gain weight (or don’t gain weight appropriate for their development) or have increased/decreased appetite.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Children with persistent depressive disorder have a persistent depressed mood (eg. feel sad, empty or irritable) for more than one year that significantly interferes with their daily functioning. They also have at least six of the following symptoms:

  • have low self-esteem
  • feel fatigued or have low energy,
  • sleep too little or sleep too much,
  • are unable to think, concentrate or make decisions,
  • feel hopeless and
  • have increased/decreased appetite.

Persistent depressive disorder often starts in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Often it is a chronic condition that requires ongoing assistance. Individuals with persistent depressive disorder are at a greater risk of developing other mental health concerns, such as: anxiety disorders or personality disorders.

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder

Children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder have severe, persistent irritability or angry mood and frequent temper outbursts. These children have frequent temper outbursts (at least three per week) in at least two settings (eg. home, school or peers) for at least one year. The outbursts are typically a result of being frustrated and can involve speaking or acting aggressively to themselves, to others and to property. In between the temper outbursts, they are irritable or angry most of the day, nearly every day. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder starts in early childhood or childhood (before 10 years of age) and is far more common in boys. Children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder rarely have the disorder on its own and often have other mental health concerns, such as challenging behaviours, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, anxiety disorders or autism spectrum disorder.

Assessment of Depression

During your first session we meet with you and your child to conduct a clinical interview to identify your child’s underlying emotional concerns. Depending on your child’s emotional concerns and age, we may have you, your child, and/or your child’s teacher complete a questionnaire to identify your child’s level of depression before commencing treatment. Finally, we develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan to help your child and your family.

Treatment of Depression

The aim of our treatment is to increase your child’s mood, reengage your child in activities and social interactions with peers and family members and reduce the negative impact your child’s thoughts and feelings are having on his/her daily functioning. We accomplish this by helping you to understand your child’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, and by providing your child and family with strategies and skills that challenge your children’s negative beliefs about him/herself, others and the world.

We use evidence-based, cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy to treat depression. We tailor your child’s treatment plan to meet his/her individual needs. We often use a range of cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, including:

  • Thought-challenging
  • Emotional regulation
  • Problem skills training

We may also use the following evidence-based therapy techniques:

  • Mindfulness/relaxation
  • Resilience group programs

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our appointments page.

If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s depression, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

Please note: If your child has a plan to die by suicide or has attempted suicide, your child is in crisis and needs immediate assistance. Please continuously supervise your child, until your child is under the supervision of a qualified professional. Seek emergency, professional help by:

  • Calling Emergency (000) and asking for an ambulance or
  • Going to the emergency department at your local hospital.