Anxiety and Depression in Children: 5 Warning Signs to Watch For

Winter is approaching fast and along with it, cold wet weather and the usual assortment of colds and cold weather maladies.  By now your children should have already received their Flu vaccines.  If not, get that done now; flu season has already begun.  Your child should be well into the school year and the stresses of homework and other school responsibilities are beginning to take their toll.

Anxiety and depression in children are being recognized at a younger and younger age and you should be able to identify symptoms related to these issues. Some researchers claim that up to 6 – 8 % of adolescents are depressed or exhibit anxiety.  Look for unexplained changes in your child’s personality or behavior and a sudden drop in grades.

  1. Has your child always been very social and overtly friendly and now prefers to be alone and do solitary things?   Has he or she been avoiding crowds and acting more isolated?  Has she/she expressed feelings of sadness or disinterest in activities in which she/he was very interested for some time?  Has your child expressed feelings of loneliness or poor self-esteem?
  2. Have you been monitoring his/her use of social media (this should be a constant for you) and find his/her interests have changed dramatically?
  3. Has your child become more secretive and more prone to destructive or particularly self-destructive behavior?  Always ask them about smoking, alcohol and sexual activity!  This is a difficult conversation to have but is a must in order to monitor your child’s social development.
  4. Is your child sad or more emotional (tough to distinguish between normal adolescent behavior)?  Angry or irritable? Having difficulty sleeping? Is there a change in eating habits? Loss of energy or speaking about death or suicide?
  5. You need to be aware that when a teen talks about suicide there is a significant chance on carrying through on these thoughts and this should be an alarm bell – boys more so than girls. 

Any combination of things mentioned above should be brought to the attention of his/her Doctor as soon as possible.  Occasionally any of these signs can be displayed for short periods of time without definite problems but if they last longer than about 2 weeks and if they seem to be interfering with normal everyday activities, consider them worthy of evaluation. Depression and anxiety can be treated, but ignoring it can lead to further problems as your child gets older.

Raising children in our current social and economic environment is very difficult and with the ease of obtaining drugs/alcohol, it requires constant monitoring and parenting. You are not your child’s friend, you are his/her parent and you should be constantly advising and leading by example.

 

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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