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Childhood Depression - Causes

Depression in children and teenagers is sadly very common.

4% of children are thought to suffer with anxiety or depression, accounting for nearly half of all children suffering with a mental health illness1

Children who experience a depressive episode often go on to have another within five years.

Children who suffer with depression are also more likely to suffer with depression and other mental health conditions later on in life. Many children and teenagers with depression also suffer with other mental health conditions – ADHD and behavioural problems can be common in 40% of depressed children2.


What should I do if I think my child or teenager is depressed?

It can be hard for parents to know if their child is suffering with depression, if it is just part of their character or a perfectly normal stage of growing up.

Parents can hold back from seeking help because they may not be sure if there is a problem and may even worry that are making an unnecessary fuss.

In our experience, if you think there might be a problem it is worth seeking help. We have worked with hundreds of families and more often than not, a parent’s instinct is often right.

You can call one of our child and adolescent clinical advisors for a friendly informal chat on 020 3761 7026. They can help you decide on the best course of action for your child.


Causes of depression in children and teenagers

There are many reasons that children and teenagers can suffer with depression including:


Genetic vulnerability

Research has shown that children whose parents suffer with depression are three times more likely to suffer themselves , suggesting a genetic link.


Stressful, traumatic life events

These can leave lasting impressions on a child. If a child has experienced a traumatic event this may have effected their learning of good coping mechanisms for dealing with complex emotions, this can sometimes result in depression.


Neurobiological

Studies show that abnormal levels of hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol, can be a causal factor for childhood depression. The part of the brain needed for emotional regulation has been shown to differ in size in some children (this has been linked to maternal depression) and this is thought to increase the child’s likelihood to suffer with depression.


Environmental factors

A family death, divorce, pressures at school or social difficulties can all be causes of depression. Not all children will be affected in the same way by these events, so it is not unusual for only one sibling to develop depression following a stressful family event, each child is unique and will cope with stressful situations in different ways.


Treatment can work

Young brains have the amazing ability to be moulded – a term called neuroplasticity.

This is fantastic news in terms of treatment outcomes for depression – with early intervention and the right treatment your child can recover and go on to lead a happy, fulfilling life. Getting help early makes a big difference.

If you have concerns about a child in your family our clinical advisors will be able to advise you on what might help. To speak to someone today call 020 3761 7026 or contact us here.

1 ONS Child and Adolescent Mental Health survey 2004
2 Luby JL, Gaffrey MS et al. Trajectories of preschool disorders to full DSM depression at school age and early adolescence: Continuity of preschool depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, vol 171(7), July 2014

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