Child and Teen Depression Counseling and Therapy
DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN AND TEENS
Our child therapists know how to speak with kids about their depression and bring families together to find solutions. We accept insurance.
Caring for a Child or Teen with Depression Can Be Challenging
Depression in children is one of the most common mental health issues that younger people face (also anxiety in children) Many parents think that children have nothing to be depressed about, so how could they be depressed? Well, kids often get depressed, just not over the same things as adults.
The truth is that all children go through periods of sadness, some with greater intensity. Depression is particularly common to notice in children after periods of grief and loss, or abrupt changes in a child’s environment (moving, divorce, medical issues, bullying at a new school). If you child is experiencing sadness or grief to an unusual degree, it’s possible that they are showing signs of depression.
Children are sensitive to life stresses as much or even more so than adults. Tension in a community and the acute stresses that major events bring can be difficult for kids to resolve. Kids may be feeling the same things as adults, but the difference is that they can’t cope nearly as well.
Many parents start noticing or addressing their child’s depression when they see grades slip. Students struggling with depression lose motivation because they firmly believe that they can’t succeed at school and it doesn’t matter, so why try?
We understand that it can feel overwhelming to have to navigate your child’s struggles on your own and be responsible for their growth and future. Understand that many parents have been on this journey before you, and our child therapists may be able to help.
Children & Teen Therapies for:
OUR THERAPY APPROACHES
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Signs of Depression in Children
It can be difficult to determine whether your child has depression as many children lack the words to describe how they feel. Depression also can lead to kids shutting down emotionally, making that investigation even harder. Some children also don’t like to share their inner emotions for any number of reasons. Even when parents generally are able to describe how their child acts and often can tell that something is wrong, they may not be able to name the problem as depression.
If you are a parent of an anxious child go ahead and list a few traits about them, if “sad”, “irritable”, “shy” or “isolated” are used, those are often signs of depression. If any of these traits become the dominant emotion that your child shows your family would benefit from talking with one of our child therapists.
Other common signs of depression in children:
- Irritability and anger (some say that depression is anger directed inward)
- Frequent tantrums in younger children
- Low self-esteem including feelings of worthlessness or overwhelming guilt
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Social isolation
- Changes in appetite (including stomach problems)
- Changes in sleep
- Loss of interest in school, truancy, poor grades
- Loss of interest in activities
- Drug or alcohol use
- General fatigue and low energy
You should know:
Many children express depression as anger. It’s easy for parents to mistake poor emotional management in children for a behavioral issue. Depression may be an underlying cause. A trained clinician can help determine whether that is the case.
Also know that:
Anxiety has a strong overlap with depression. If your child has a mix of anxious behavior and depressed behavior, they may have some combination of the two. Read more on our anxiety in children.
If you have seen any of these signs in your child and are noticing changes in their attitudes towards themselves, making friends, attending school, changes in grades or notice any other barrier to their development, schedule a consultation with our child therapists. Working on these emotions and behaviors as early as possible best prepares your child for proper emotional and social development as they progress through school.
Depression in Children
(2-12 yrs old)
Bullying, Social Anxiety and Depression
This age (and especially the teenage years) is when many kids experience bullying. There is a significant connection between bullying and anxiety/depression. In many ways bullying is traumatic for children and leaves them feeling that “I’m treated by my friends how I am worth.”
Many kids choose not to be angry at the bullies but direct their anger at themselves, feeling shameful and that they deserve such treatment. We work with kids to conceptualize bullying and find healthier coping strategies. Often the self-esteem we develop during therapy helps empower them during bullying situations. Read more about bullying here[Trauma Link]
Social anxiety can also be related to depression. If a child can’t talk with other kids they can feel like the odd one out and become more isolated.
Depression in Teens (13-18 yrs old)
A major factor that is highly associated with depression rates in teens is the use of social media. We recommend watching “The Social Dilemma” on netflix in order to see first hand the effects of social media on the teens shown in the docudrama. The two teens shown are deeply impacted by their interaction on social media in a rollercoaster of emotions. Too many likes leads to euphoria (similar reaction in the brain as addictive substances. Too few and they fall into a deep sadness, often questioning their value and body image. We see such struggles in our work with teens almost universally.
Social media not only makes kids put themselves out into the ether for the sole purpose of being judged and validated, but the blue light found in screens acts as a stimulant, reducing quality of sleep and incentivizing kids to use screens more in a self fulfilling loop. This also happens to adults! This lack of sleep contributes to depression in children.
A Note on Teens
The teenage years see a growing separation from parents as the most important connection in a kid’s life to friends taking that role.
It can be difficult for teens to share with parents their inner struggles and feelings, in our therapy sessions we make every effort for our therapists to create a non-judgemental space where teens can openly share their struggles without worrying about parental approval or shame. For many teens (especially those with few friends) it is the only place that they can truly talk, and that can make all the difference.
If depression in teens is left unaddressed it can develop into substance abuse disorders.
Many of the thoughts that lead to depressive behavior also lead to substance use (marijuana and alcohol perhaps being the most common). Teens have every opportunity to get in touch with drugs and alcohol and many take advantage of that to “self-medicate.” Teens can use mind-altering substances to stop fixating on their emotional struggles and see “relief.” Use and withdrawal of such substances often has the opposite effect and only increases their emotional pain.
Proper treatment and timing of treatment can effectively resolve underlying issues related to substance use and reduce further usage.
What Can Parents Do About Depression in their Children?
Ask your child about their experiences. How are they feeling and why?
Limit screen time and talk about social media with your child. We encourage all parents to get the same apps as their child and understand how they work. Follow your child and their influences and talk about messages as they come up. You can teach yourself more about these platforms and how their algorithms work and discuss that with your child.
Encourage exercise and healthy eating. For example, kids that dont drink enough water tend to feel fatigued which fuels their depression in a vicious cycle. And exercise remains one of the best health interventions for depression.
Parenting Suggestions – DON’Ts
Don’t judge or shame your child based on their down periods. This tends to only make them feel guilty and withdraw more. Making small comments like “what’s wrong with you” or “just cheer up” can send a child back into their negative thought patterns. Instead offer constructive help and support them in their journey. Focus on the small successes.
Don’t expect your child to share every little detail with you. Teens are developing their personalities and tend to stay separate from parents. Ask important questions, but know that if they withhold certain emotions and insights, a therapist may be best to work with them on these.
Children need a healthy mix of privacy, trust and support from parents
LifeStance Depression Treatment Plan for Children
Our treatment plan is different for every child and every age. Younger children experience the world through play, so kids younger than 10 often see the best benefit from our play or art therapists. Teens are better able to sit and talk about their inner life so our talk therapists can adapt our typical talk therapy methods to teen issues.
We also draw from a holistic approach. When the gut, physical health, mind and emotional sides of a child are connected and working together, health comes much more easily. Exercise has many benefits including giving a mental rush that can help jolt depression away for some time. This helps to get rid of that mind fog that we can get caught up in.
We also put an emphasis on engaging with depression. We teach children to be “emotions investigators” so that they can catch the triggers that put them in a depressive state, check to see if they are accurate, and change them to be more in line with their personal truth.
Overall, we understand that many children are able to feel that something is wrong, but their coping methods tend to cause more harm than good. That’s why our focus is uniquely on developing emotional understanding, building coping skills and collaborating on practical steps in day to day life (and school). We help children by drawing from a variety of psychological methods to see which will best suit their needs. These methods include CBT, DBT, mindfulness, patient child interactive therapy (PCIT), system therapy and other evidence based approaches.
Break-free and begin your journey to
There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.
LifeStance Health can help.
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Our services are also available online through Zoom. Telehealth/Online counseling gives you the opportunity to explore your challenges in life without complicating your daily schedule.
If you have questions and would like to talk about any of our counseling services, please reach out for a complimentary phone consultation or send us an email.
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