Over the course of her career as a psychologist Miriam Galindo, Psy.D., has gained extensive experience treating abused and neglected children. Prior to establishing her own practice in Irvine, California, Dr. Miriam Galindo spent time working in an outpatient counseling agency where she assessed and treated children who had experienced sexual abuse.
To some, depression may not seem like a condition that affects young children. However, there is a clear distinction to be made between the ordinary growing pains and mood swings that define childhood, and clinical depression, a serious illness faced by young individuals as well as adults.
Although it can vary in many ways from child to child, childhood depression can generally be characterized as either masked or typical depression. A child masking his or her depression will often lash out at others and frequently demonstrate anger and irritability rather than episodes of anxiety or melancholy. Typical depression in children, on the other hand, is similar to adult depression and can be characterized by sadness and other low moods.
There are a number of signs that can help parents and other caregivers identify depression and separate the illness from normal psychological developments. Sudden changes in sleep patterns, for example, can be a warning sign. As children grow they require more sleep, but excessive sleeping (or, by contrast, symptoms akin to insomnia) are less common. Fatigue and low energy are further signs of childhood depression, particularly in regard to events and activities the child previously enjoyed. Finally, repeated social withdrawal can be attributed to depression, especially if the child refrains from participating with other children due to fear of rejection.