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Depression / Mood Disorders

Signs and symptoms

Everyone goes through periods of time where they feel sad or down. Depression often involves extended periods of sadness or feeling down, and in children and adolescents, heightened irritability can be more evident than sadness. Depression typically involves a change from usual functioning. Young people experiencing depression might:

  • Have reduced energy levels, and complain of feeling tired all of the time
  • Have difficulty concentrating, thinking things through, or making up their mind
  • Be restless, agitated, or slowed down
  • Lose interest in activities such as school work, sports, or friendships that once brought them satisfaction
  • Show changes in sleep patterns
  • Have either increased appetite, or loss of appetite
  • Have feelings of low self-worth or low self-esteem
  • Criticize themselves harshly and blame themselves for things that are not their fault
  • Express feelings of hopelessness
  • Believe they are unloved
  • Express suicidal thoughts or be preoccupied with death

Not every young person shows all of these symptoms, and depression can look rather different in boys and girls. Children and adolescents who regularly experience most of these symptoms for two weeks or more could be suffering from a depressive disorder. When trying to decide if your child or adolescent is just moody or actually depressed, it\'s important to consider whether or not their symptoms interfere with their functioning at school, in the family, or with their friends.

How common is depression in adolescents?

Research indicates that roughly one in five adolescents will experience a depressive episode during the teen years. Research also shows that depression runs in families. Depressed youth are at increased risk for a number of problems including school difficulties, peer problems, substance use, and self-injurious behaviour. Treatment of depression can help young people overcome their symptoms and prevent the development of future depressive episodes.

What types of depression are there?

Different types of depression often have slightly different symptoms and may require different treatments. The five main types of depression are listed below.

Helping your adolescent

The following websites include information about a range of adolescent issues, including depression:

The following reference is a helpful resource for helping young people with depression:

Getting professional help

If you, or someone that you know, is in need of additional assistance, the best person to speak to is your GP. They may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The following services may also be of assistance: