Depression – An Overview and Resources

For more serious issues, like this one – Childhood Depression – I’ll keep it simple and straight forward.  I’ll connect you to good research and interesting experts and leave out any commentary.

If you want a more emotive glimpse into how depression feels, check out Darkness Visible, by William Styron. If you think anxiety may be a factor for your child, check out this overview I did a while back.

What is depression?

Major depression is a serious medical illness that affects your thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health. It is not a temporary feeling of being sad or blue. Depression is a life-long condition in which you may experience alternating periods of wellness and illness.

How many kids have depression?

About 5% of children and teens suffer from depression at any given time and about 20% of teens will experience depression during their adolescence.

What are the types of depression?

Major depression — severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.

Bipolar disorder also called manic-depressive illness, is characterized by cycling mood changes—from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — occurs most often during the fall-winter season and disappears during the spring-summer season. It is most likely due to a lack of sunlight and more prevalent in northern climates.

Postpartum depression — many women feel somewhat down after having a baby, but true postpartum depression is more severe and includes the symptoms of major depression.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) — symptoms of depression occur 1 week before your menstrual period and disappear after you menstruate.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability, anger
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless, worthless, guilty, self-hate
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Sudden change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
  • Poor concentration
  • Talk of, or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or other self-harming behavior

What’s the difference between teen and adult depression?

  • Irritable or angry mood – irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
  • Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If your doctor can’t find a physical cause for these complaints, please discuss the possibility of depression.
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
  • Withdrawing from some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.

What causes depression?

Depression is caused by one (or more) of the following: biological differences in the brain, changes in brain chemistry, hormone fluctuations and life events. The biological roots of depression may contribute to the generational pattern of depression found in some families.

What is the treatment for depression?

Treatment normally consists of a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Your primary care physician or a psychiatrist can prescribe appropriate anti-depressant therapies. Most people find that these work best when coupled with psychotherapy. Psychotherapeutic interventions may help with adjusting to a crisis, developing coping mechanisms, changing behaviors that exacerbate the depression, setting realistic goals and identifying and replacing negative thoughts.

What should I look for in a therapist?

  • Do they have a license to offer mental health treatment?
  • Are they a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a social worker?
  • What type of degree do they have: Ph.D. or Psy.D.?
  • Are they board certified?
  • What is their approach to treatment (i.e., theoretical orientation)?
  • Where did they train?
  • What if my first choice therapist is unavailable, or I cannot find many choices?

Where can I find a therapist?

Local Resources:

The San Antonio Crisis Hotline – (210)223-7233 (SAFE)

Clarity Child Guidance Center  offers inpatient (overnight) and outpatient (counseling, medication management and full-day/partial hospitalization) services for kids ages 3 – 17 dealing with depression and other mental health issues.

San Antonio Clubhouse works with mentally ill adults to help them regain their productivity and self-confidence, resume their lives, and re-enter society.

National Resources:

NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-SUI-CIDE or 1-800-784-2433



Maggie McMahon is a businesswoman with more than decade of experience building and growing new organizations. She believes that learning should be fun, but recognizes that frustration and worry or boredom and routine can sometimes get in the way. Maggie is excited about building a learning environment that helps kids grow into their confidence and success. Maggie is married and has two children.

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