There is no doubt that our kids can go through some tough times. Whether it is a family separation; friendship issues; or bombing out on an assessment; periods of low mood can be a normal response to stressful events. However, what about chronic, or long-standing low mood in our young people? When it comes to adults, persistent low mood may meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, however in children this isn’t usually the case.
When it comes to children, it is really uncommon to see a genuine major depressive disorder in children under twelve, however that does not mean that they don’t experience symptoms of depression. We often find that in younger kids, low mood is a symptom that occurs secondary to something else. For example we may see a child who until Grade 5 has been functioning well academically, socially and emotionally. Then all of a sudden, they start withdrawing, are frustrated, irritable and tired, and start avoiding their homework and disengaging. On the surface we may look at this and think: depression. However if we look further, we might (and often) find that this child has actually been living with an inattentive presentation of ADHD but until this point have been able to fly under the radar by doing just enough to avoid being noticed. However, as the academic demands of school increase, their ability to manage a high degree of inattention becomes more difficult and eventually is surpassed. This is when we see the low mood kick in, however it is not genuine major depressive disorder, but secondary to the inattention. That is to say: but for attention difficulties, this child’s mood would likely be unchanged.
If your child has been experiencing chronic low mood, or other symptoms of depression, it may be worth investigating whether there are other additional factors at play.
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