Diagnosing Childhood Depression

Diagnosing childhood depression (and choosing effective treatment) requires a comprehensive assessment for childhood depression. In making this assessment, the healthcare provider will ask some questions and perform a thorough checkup. Among the things that the healthcare provider will evaluate are the child's family situation, self-esteem and prior experience with illness, and level of emotional maturity and ability to cope with illness and treatment.

Diagnosing Childhood Depression: An Overview

Childhood depression and adult depression are different illnesses due to the developmental issues involved in children. Children experience depression differently, and they may show different symptoms. However, if your child is showing four or more of these symptoms of depression for longer than two weeks, he or she may be suffering from childhood depression.
(Click Symptoms of Depression in Children for a complete list of symptoms.)

Is This a Normal Phase -- Or Depression?

Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary "phase" or is suffering from depression. Sometimes the parents become worried about how the child's behavior has changed, or a teacher mentions that "your child doesn't seem to be himself." In such a case, if a visit to the child's pediatrician rules out physical symptoms, the doctor will probably suggest that the child be evaluated, preferably by a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of children.

Specifics for Diagnosing Depression in Children

In order to make a diagnosis of childhood depression, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions and will perform a thorough checkup that includes a complete physical exam and medical workup, as well as a complete history of current and previous symptoms. Determining a diagnosis of childhood depression also involves evaluating the child's:
  • Family situation
  • Level of emotional maturity and ability to cope with illness and treatment
  • Age and state of development
  • Self-esteem and prior experience with illness.


Diagnosing childhood depression, and choosing effective treatment, requires a comprehensive assessment for childhood depression.

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