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Childhood Depression: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

  • Post category:Disorders
  • Reading time:8 mins read

Transient Depression in Childhood

Transient, short-lived states of depression in childhood are very common. The child instantly grieves, cries when a wish is not fulfilled, when something is not to his liking. But it calms down just as quickly. The older the child, the slower and less often he reacts with depression to various failures and disappointments, but these conditions therefore become more intense and long-lasting, especially in puberty. Yet in most cases, they pass quickly without leaving significant changes.

Slowing Down of Depression Reaction with Age

As children age, their reactions to depression slow down and become less common. However, the conditions become more intense and long-lasting, especially during puberty. The text advises educators to be concerned about long-term states of depression in children and youth, which do not pass even after several days, or become a constant feature of a young person.

Symptoms of Depression in Children

The depressed child is grumpy, shaky, listless, silent, withdrawn, and passive; feels tired, complains of indefinite pain, suffers from vague anxiety; he is prone to crying, has no appetite to eat, sleeps restlessly; it’s always serious, you can’t laugh. In such a mental state, the child is distracted at school, immobile, does not attend classes, is not interested in anything, stays away from his peers. He also has a hard time remembering, sitting over a book for hours, but he can learn little. Sometimes he becomes irritable and intolerant of the people around him.

Psychological Changes of Chronic Depression

Chronic depression is regularly the result of very painful life experiences. She follows his timidity and withdrawn demeanor when the disorders are caused by constant psychological abuse. Neglected, unloved, emotionally neglected, children rejected by their parents are often depressed. This psychological change is not uncommon in foster children who are deprived of the warmth of a normal family environment.

Causes of Depression in Children and Youth

The text lists various causes of depression in children and youth. Chronic depression is often the result of very painful life experiences such as constant psychological abuse, neglect, emotional neglect, and rejection by parents. Foster children who are deprived of the warmth of a normal family environment also often experience chronic depression. A child who normally develops in a more or less normal way may react with sudden, acute depression when he experiences severe disappointment. In adolescence, and even more so during puberty, young people most often react with depression to various negative notions about their own personality. Some people also carry an innate tendency to react depressively to various life blows, conflicts, and emotional upheavals.

Cyclothymic Constitutions

The text describes people with so-called cyclothymic constitutions, who have an innate tendency to react depressively to various life blows, conflicts, and emotional upheavals, to which other people prefer to respond with fear, anxiety, aggression, or neurotic disturbances. These individuals may experience cyclical mood swings, including depressive and manic episodes. This tendency can manifest in childhood and can sometimes be the basis for the appearance of manic-depressive psychosis in adolescence or adulthood.

Depression Leading to Suicidal Thoughts

In adolescence, depression can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts. It is important to recognize when depression has turned into psychosis, although it does not have to be the case.

Case Study: Emma

An 11-year-old girl who showed various symptoms of depression. Her mother brought her to counseling due to poor school performance, and she was attending the 4th grade of primary school at the time. She was never interested in school, but she still managed to finish classes with mediocre success. However, that year, she completely failed to master the teaching materials. She became timid, silent, whispered, and distracted at school. She sat at home with a book for hours but could not learn anything. She was always grumpy, avoided the company of other children, was irritable and harsh towards her younger brother. She showed quiet resistance to her mother, remained passive to her urge to learn, and retreated in fear when her mother scolded her. She preferred to play with her doll, to whom she quietly told something.

Family Dynamics and Attachment Issues

Emma’s behavior issues were related to her family dynamics and attachment issues. Her parents had different attitudes towards her and her brother, which led to a power struggle between them. Her mother was cold and unkind, prone to authoritative actions, and she tied her son to her, giving him an advantage over his daughter in everything. On the contrary, she caressed her son, dealt with him a lot and showered him with tenderness. The girl reciprocated her mother’s emotional coldness with distrust, fear, and avoidance of contact. But she had a counterbalance in her father, who tied his daughter to himself because she was similar to him in appearance and temperament, and the son resembled his mother, whom the father had long been disappointed in. The father paid a lot of attention to the girl, played with her, and pampered her. He pleased her in everything, he served her, and when she went to school, he did her homework. Emma was completely dependent on her father, relying on him in everything and trying to keep his affection with her kind behavior towards him.

Effect of Father’s Death on Emma

When Emma was a little over 10 years old, her father died in a car accident. This event was a psychological blow to Emma, and she suddenly felt abandoned, without anyone by her side whom she would love and who would love her. She was left with a cold, authoritative mother and a capricious, self-willed brother who did not have much emotional contact with her. Left without support in her father’s personality, she felt more threatened by her mother’s strictness, and at the same time, fierce jealousy of her brother appeared. Her father’s death was a trigger for the above-mentioned disorders in her behavior.

Psychotherapeutic Procedure and Positive Development

The text explains that Emma underwent a psychotherapeutic procedure, during which she became very attached to the therapist. She found in him at least a partial emotional replacement for her father, as well as the authority that impressed her. This helped her to settle down so mentally that her timidity was less conspicuous, she started hanging out with other children again, and at school, she became more active, achieving even better grades. Later, the role of the therapist, and according to his instructions, was taken over by the stepfather. Emma’s mother remarried, and the new stepfather sincerely embraced Emma without repeating her father’s upbringing mistakes. He did not caress her excessively, and this was helpful for Emma’s mental development. She continued to move in a more positive direction.


In conclusion, depression in childhood and youth is a common occurrence, and educators should be concerned about long-term states of depression. Symptoms of depression in children include physical symptoms, distraction, immobility, and disinterest in anything. Chronic depression is often the result of painful life experiences such as psychological abuse, neglect, and emotional neglect. Depression can be caused by sudden, severe disappointment or negative self-image. There are people with cyclothymic constitutions who have an innate tendency to react depressively to various life blows, conflicts, and emotional upheavals. In some cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. The case study of Emma shows the importance of recognizing family dynamics and attachment issues in children with depression. A psychotherapeutic procedure and positive support can be helpful in improving mental health and development in children with depression.