Childhood depression is more than the normal “blues” and every day emotions that occur in a child. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a childhood condition of extreme irritability, anger, and frequent, intense temper outbursts. Its symptoms typically begin before the age of 10, but the diagnosis is not given to children under 6 or adolescents over 18.
As a corner stone of DMDD is irritability, children who are diagnosed with it usually experience:
- Irritable or angry mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Severe temper outbursts (verbal or behavioral) at an average of three or more times per week that are out of keeping with the situation and the child’s developmental level
- Trouble functioning due to irritability in more than one place (e.g., home, school, with peers)
Diagnosing childhood depression
Typically, the diagnosis for child depression is not given below the age of 6 years old. Presentation of depression also varies with age.
Younger children often lack the language skills to verbalize their mood. They may not be able to describe how they are feeling or what they are experiencing. In such cases, a child with depression may report being sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or even worry that one or both of their parents (or another close family member or friend) may pass away.
On the other hand, older children who have a better understanding of what depression means may feel embarrassed or they may worry that they are different. These children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative and irritable, be more fatigued and feel misunderstood. They have a higher tendency of engaging in risk taking behaviors, may also start to use substances (such as alcohol or OTC medication) to self soothe and may also pick up smoking.
What can parents do?
Parents should keep a lookout for changes in your child’s behavior. Take note if your child is not wanting to do things that they previously enjoyed, not wanting to meet friends, sleeping a lot more or less than normal, eating a lot more or less than normal, or seem constantly irritable or upset. A diary can be kept while observing changes on a day-to-day basis.
Other behavior that your child may exhibit to look out for:
- Tiredness and complaints of feeling tired all the time
- Changes in weight
- Has difficulty to make decisions
- Not being able to concentrate
- Not being able to keep up with lessons in school.
- Feeling restless and agitated, going from one thing to the next.
- Feelings of worthlessness, feeling like they’re not good at anything.
Dr Sanveen Kang
Principal Clinical Psychologist & Centre Manager
Thomson Paediatric Centre - The Child Development Centre
This article is brought to you by Healthway Medical.