Is your child acting out because of puberty? Or are their symptoms actually a sign of depression? These questions are often not easy to answer. Here’s a summary of the key information.
The most common mental illness among children and young people is depression. This is often the age at which people experience the illness for the first time. Boys and girls are affected by depression at roughly the same rate up to the age of puberty. After that, cases rise in girls, who are then twice as likely to suffer from the illness as boys.
Depression in children and young people is often difficult to identify at first. There are various reasons for this: the illness does not affect everyone in the same way and there is a wide range of possible symptoms. These symptoms are also often mistakenly attributed to puberty instead of depression. In addition, children affected by the illness often display behavioural problems, which means that other problems take centre stage.
Symptoms vary depending on the age of the affected child.
It is not uncommon for young people to experience other mental illnesses in addition to depression. These may include anxiety disorders, addictive behaviour, eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders.
Our health consultation advisors will show you how you can recognise, prevent and treat depression in young people. They will also help you find a recognised therapist.
As young people slowly approach adulthood, they face new challenges. Their personality is developing and they have to figure out who they are or who they’d like to be. But their physical development and sexuality are also becoming more important. They start to break away from their parents and become more independent – which means that they gain certain freedoms, but also take on more responsibility. Their academic performance also becomes more relevant. Young people have to start thinking about their choice of studies or careers, and realise that they are entering the serious stage of life. This transformation is stressful and sometimes even overwhelming.
These challenges faced by young people are usually not the sole triggers of depression. There are often other factors involved as well:
The same diagnostic criteria apply to children and young people as to adults. However, there are certain typical symptoms that young people often do not exhibit. At the same time, other symptoms are just part of growing up and are not a cause for concern per se. For that reason, the age of the child or teenager must always be taken into account. It is also important to establish whether the symptoms last for an extended period of time or are just temporary. The diagnosis is always made by a doctor or a psychotherapist.
If depression in children and young people is left untreated, the illness may become chronic. This also increases the risk of relapse.
As a first step, it is important to explain to the affected child what depression is, in a manner appropriate for their age. This is followed by psychotherapy. The therapist will often involve the family or other caregivers in this process as well. If necessary, they will supplement this psychotherapeutic treatment with medicinal therapy.
Melissa Biedermann (MSc) works as a health consultation advisor at Helsana. She is committed to providing psychology services to our clients. Melissa Biedermann provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.
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