Summer is ending and school will be starting soon. This means that children who were being bullied at school or having difficulties with homework will be returning to the same environment and they may be experiencing stress or depression. Also you have students who are starting middle school and high school. They may be afraid of not fitting in or already feel the do not fit in and feeling depressed. Finally, you have the students who are leaving home to start college. They are leaving their family and friends going into a completely new environment. This can be over whelming and intimidating. Many parents have been asking me about changes they have noticed in their child or teen and wondering if their child is experiencing depression or anxiety. Since I am asked the question often, I was reading an article by Dr. Jerome Yelder, Sr., which outlines many symptoms of depression. He explained them so they are easy to understand and covered all symptoms parents need to be aware of regarding depression. This is important because typically children and teenagers do not act like adults do when they feel depressed. I have outlined his list below for you to review and decide if you feel your teenager needs to see a mental health clinician for depression.

Sleep Problems

Depression can affect your body as well as your mind. Trouble falling or staying asleep is common in people who are depressed. But some may find that they get too much shut-eye.

Chest Pain

It can be a sign of heart, lung, or stomach problems, so see your doctor to rule out those causes. Sometimes, though, it’s a symptom of depression.

Depression can also raise your risk of heart disease. Plus, people who’ve had heart attacks are more likely to be depressed.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

If you feel so tired that you don’t have energy for everyday tasks — even when you sleep or rest a lot — it may be a sign that you’re depressed. Depression and fatigue together tend to make both conditions seem worse.

Aching Muscles and Joints

When you live with ongoing pain it can raise your risk of depression.

Depression may also lead to pain because the two conditions share chemical messengers in the brain. People who are depressed are three times as likely to get regular pain.

Digestive Problems

Our brains and digestive systems are strongly connected, which is why many of us get stomachaches or nausea when we’re stressed or worried. Depression can get you in your gut too — causing nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches

One study shows that people with major depression are three times more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines are five times more likely to get depressed.

Changes in Appetite or Weight

Some people feel less hungry when they get depressed. Others can’t stop eating. The result can be weight gain or loss, along with lack of energy. Depression has been linked to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating.

Back Pain

When it hurts you there on a regular basis, it may contribute to depression. And people who are depressed may be four times more likely to get intense, disabling neck or back pain.

Agitated and Restless

Sleep problems or other depression symptoms can make you feel this way. Men are more likely than women to be irritable when they’re depressed.

Sexual Problems

Hopefully your teenager is not sexually active. While they may not have the sexual problems adults do, when they are depressed, they may show a lack of interest in dating or relationships and tend to isolate. They also may feel they are sexually unattractive.

If you’re depressed, you might lose your interest in sex. Some prescription drugs that treat depression can also take away your drive and affect performance. Talk to your doctor about your medicine options.

Exercise

Research suggests that if you do it regularly, it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although physical activity alone won’t cure depression, it can help ease it over the long term. If you’re depressed, it can sometimes be hard to get the energy to exercise. But try to remember that it can ease fatigue and help you sleep better.

If you feel you child or teenager are experiencing the above symptoms and may be depressed, have them evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Remember, children and teenagers often display different symptoms when they are depressed so it is often misdiagnosed. Also do not be embarrassed or ashamed. The pressure children and teenagers are facing at school can be very overwhelming and can easily cause a depressive episode. The most important thing is if your child or teenager is experiencing depression, get then the treatment they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

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