Childhood is a time of life that many adults view as simple and uncomplicated. But for many, the years leading up to adulthood are filled with anxiety and sadness. Up until recently, mental health professionals believed that children could not be clinically depressed, at least until the teen years. Today, they know differently. School aged children, and even toddlers can be depressed.
One interesting feature about childhood depression is that it is nearly always accompanied by, or preceded by anxiety. In fact, many mental health professionals consider anxiety to be a precursor of sorts for depression.
Childhood anxiety may take several forms:
Separation anxiety is the fear that something will happen to loved ones if the child is away from them. Children who suffer from separation anxiety dread going to school and may develop headaches or stomachaches when forced to go.
Social phobia is a dread of the social parts of life, such as meeting people, developing friendships, being called upon to read or answer a question. Children with social phobia may become quiet, withdrawn, or even refuse to speak to others outside of the family.
Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive anxiety about all things, particularly the future. A child with generalized anxiety has trouble enjoying the moment because she is worried about what is around the corner.
It's important to recognize these signs of anxiety in your child and to seek help if they persist. Children do not generally "grow out of it," and may in fact, develop a clinical depression.
Parents often overlook depression in children, at least initially. All children become sad at times, but these feelings should go away in a couple of days. Symptoms of depression in children include: