Childhood & Adolescent Depression

In the U.S. approximately one in thirty-three children and one in eight adolescents experience depression before they reach adulthood. Here are some symptoms. These are not meant for diagnosis. If your child or adolescent has some of these symptoms take him or her to your primary care provider or a mental health professional specializing in the treatment of children and families.



  • Appetite changes; significant weight loss, weight gain
  • Physical complaints: stomach aches, headaches, etc.
  • Sleeping too little, too much, or not well, frequent nightmares
  • Tired all the time, loss of energy, exhaustion



  • Chronically depressed, sad, or tearful mood or agitated, angry, irritable mood
  • Anxious, nervous, fearful, worries a lot
  • Feels guilty a lot; hates self
  • Feels helpless to change negative situations & hopeless about the future
  • Overly sensitive to criticism or correction



  • Thoughts of running away
  • Suicidal thoughts, thoughts of death or death themes
  • Self-defeating or self-hating thoughts
  • Any series of thoughts that go along with above emotions



  • Slipping grades, withdrawing from friends, whininess, easily discouraged
  • Loss of playfulness or zest for life; loss of interest in activities/hobbies
  • Increased whininess or aggressiveness; over-activity, restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating, can’t make choices, can’t finish projects
  • Lets life happen rather than helping to shape its direction
  • Quiet, monotone, one-word answers to questions
  • Developmentally “going backward” (Soiling pants at six)
  • Self-injurious behaviors (Head-banging, cutting on oneself)
  • Talking, writing, singing, or drawing about death, suicide, macabre themes
  • Habitually listening to music, reading books or comics, or gaming/watching videos with death, suicide, or macabre themes.

Risk Factors For Children

  • Prior depressive episode or low-level depressive symptoms
  • Prior panic attacks, social, or general anxiety episodes
  • Death of a significant other, or other major loss (ex. Parental divorce, move)
  • Family history of clinical depression, drug, and/or alcohol abuse
  • Diagnosis of attention deficit, obsessive-compulsive, or anxiety disorder
  • History of abuse or trauma, poverty, or other environmental stress
  • History or presence of chronic or serious medical problems (ex. Childhood diabetes)
  • Living in a family that frequently fights or is violent


Having risk factors does not automatically mean your child will experience a depressive episode. It simply means your child is at risk.



From Raising Depression-Free Children: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention and Early Intervention by Kathleen Panula Hockey. Copyright 2003 by Hazelden Foundation.   Center City, MN. All rights reserved.