What is Depression?


Depression is a Mood disorder with the presence of sadness, emptiness and irritability at its core. It is accompanied with somatic and cognitive changes and affect the person’s ability to function.

Occasionally being sad or feeling hopeless is a part of every child’s life. However, some children feel sad or uninterested in things that they used to enjoy, or feel helpless or hopeless in situations they are able to change. When children feel persistent sadness and hopelessness, they may be diagnosed with depression.

Signs & Symptoms

Depression in Preschoolers

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Excessive crying
  • Vegetative disturbance (insomnia, decreased appetite)
  • Behavior disturbance (hyperactivity, temper tantrums, absence of normal play)

Depression in School aged Children

  • Sadness
  • Negative self-reports about their behavior, intelligence, appearance, or acceptance by peers.
  • Frequent somatic complaints such as fatigue, stomachache or headache
  • Social withdrawal. Refusal to engage with friends or participate in extracurricular activities, hobbies or other interests
  • Isolation – opting to stay in their rooms
  • Behavioral problems with anger outbursts.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide could be present

Depression in Adolescents

  • Boredom / irritability / a feeling of hopelessness.
  • Withdrawal from friends and isolation from family when at home.
  • Sadness expressed by wearing black clothes/ writing poetry with morbid themes
  • Sleep disturbances. Stay awake all night watching TV / difficulty getting up for school / sleeping during the day.
  • Lack of motivation resulting in skipped classes inability to concentrate and lowered grades.
  • Loss of appetite or compulsive eating.
  • Rebellious behavior, alcohol or drug use, and promiscuous sexual activity.
  • Somatic complaints or chronic fatigue.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Suicide idea / Attempts

Atypical Depression

This is associated with a younger age of depression and is characterized by:

  • Mood reactivity (i.e., mood brightens in response to actual or potential positive Events).
  • Significant weight gain or increase in appetite.
  • Hypersomnia.
  • Leaden paralysis (i.e., heavy, leaden feelings in arms or legs).
  • Rejection sensitivity -Increased sensitivity to perceived criticism or rejection

What to do if you think your child may have Depression?

Visit your primary care physician if you suspect your child may have this disorder; they will be assessed and referred to the Child Psychiatrist if necessary.


  1. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. DSM 5 TR 2022
  2. Anxiety and Depression in Children | Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html
  3. Harold S. Koplewicz and Emily Klass. Depression in Children and Adolescents. 1993.

Prepared by:

Dr. Jenese October
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. Psychiatry Department. GPHC