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When to Call the Doctor: Depression and Anxiety in Your Child

As a parent, monitoring your child’s emotional state can be challenging. Particularly with teenagers, it can be tough to know whether your teen is experiencing typical adolescent angst or something more serious, like clinical depression. Depression can affect children and adolescents in many of the same ways it affects adults.

  • Symptoms of depression in children may include:
  • Changes in sleep patterns, including needing more sleep or getting less of it
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling that easy tasks are difficult
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys, games, activities or friends
  • Changes in appetite, including loss of appetite or eating more
  • Irritability, frequent anger or other mood changes

Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. In fact, experts estimate that up to 85 percent of those with one condition will show symptoms of the other.

Your child may suffer from anxiety if he or she shows the following symptoms:

  • Feeling constantly tense, worried or on edge
  • Crying at school, having behavioral problems or changes in grades
  • Feeling persistent, irrational fears, like missing the bus, forgetting homework or having a pop quiz
  • Believing something bad will happen if things aren’t done a certain way
  • Avoiding everyday situations or activities because they cause anxiety

Depression and anxiety can also cause these physical problems:

  • Stomach upset or nausea
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping

Be especially attuned to your child during times of change. Moving and changing schools, losing a friend or loved one, or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can trigger depression or anxiety.

Talk to your child’s teacher and school guidance counselor to see if they have noticed any changes in behavior. Your pediatrician or family doctor is also a great resource. Medical professionals can help determine whether there may be an underlying medical issue or developmental challenge that could be causing your child’s symptoms.

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, you can seek help through Riley at IU Health psychiatry at several Indiana locations.

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