Sad Children May Not Be Depressed. Here’s The Difference.

Illiriana B image
 Iliriana B. M.D

Sadness or feeling “blue” isn’t something that affects adults only. Indeed, sad children can experience intense emotional fluctuations. However, when such feelings last for over two weeks, it is a possible sign of depression.

Children are rarely diagnosed with depression, as the condition often goes unrecognized. And therefore, untreated.

Signs Sad children Can Give

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Childhood sadness exists and might present itself with similar symptoms as in cases of adult sadness. Sad children experience symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty in concentrating.
  • Excessive crying.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
  • Feeling guilty, angry, and irritable.
  • Having low energy.

Signs Your Child Is depressed

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It is essential to know the signs of depression in children to be able to act accordingly. It is difficult for children sometimes to express what they feel. However, they do show symptoms unconsciously. 

These symptoms include:

  • A decline in how they perform at school, lower energy, and concentration.
  • Negative thinking, such as self-critical comments or always complaining.
  • Frequent physical illnesses, such as stomachaches and headaches.
  • Change in sleep pattern.
  • Higher or lower appetite.
  • Change in temperament and behavior, anger, and irritability. 

If a child gets diagnosed with depression, it is crucial to watch out for warning signs of suicide risk. Such signs include :

  • Social isolation.
  • Talking about death or dying.
  • An increase in problematic behavior.
  • Several depression symptoms.
  • Frequent accidents and interest in weapons. 

Depressed children vs. sad children

It is usual for children to go through different feelings and learn how to deal with them. Sometimes children think negatively or are sad, which is a part of growing up. It can be challenging to know when your child is sad, and when they’re depressed.

As you’ve seen above, the symptoms are similar.

However, depression is more severe than just feeling low or blue. It is an illness that can significantly affect the mental and physical health of the child. In general, if your child has been feeling sad for over a couple of weeks, thinking negatively, losing interest in daily activities, has no energy, and frequent anxious thoughts, it is recommended to speak to a physician.

science and the reasons why Sad Children get depressed

Studies show that depression is hereditary. Meaning, if a family member suffers from a mood disorder, the risk is higher for you to suffer from it.

Here are four other causes:

1. Chronic Medical Conditions

Children who suffer from chronic medical conditions are more likely to suffer from depression. Certain conditions can increase the risk of childhood depression. For example, an imbalance in hormones and chemicals can negatively impact the brain. As a result, this increases the possibility of depression.

2. Depression and ADHD

ADHD is another condition that’s proven to be connected with depression. ADHD can cause many changes and challenges in children’s lives, which can lead to depression. Studies are still trying to figure out the relationship between depression and ADHD. For example, Some studies show that adults who have been diagnosed with depression and aren’t responding to antidepressants are suffering from ADHD and not depression.

3. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression, which has a seasonal pattern. In other words, it comes and goes at the same timing every year.

People who have SAD share the same symptoms with depressed people. SAD typically occurs during winter when the days are shorter. During spring, people with SAD tend to return to a healthy mood and energy level.

4. Anxiety Disorder

Children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are typically terrified when they are away from their parents. Also, they are petrified of specific things or situations. For example, going to the doctor, insects, or thunder. Anxious children might also suffer from social anxiety and be afraid to go to school or public places.

Children with general anxiety, however, are typically anxious about whether the future holds terrible things.

Sometimes, physical symptoms appear in children with anxiety disorders, such as feeling dizzy, sweaty, shaky, having difficulties breathing, and heart-pounding during sudden and intense fear episodes.

Tips for sad children to control their sadness

It can be tough for some children to deal with strong emotions, such as sadness. However, adults can help children find better ways of coping with their melancholy.

One way to do so is by thinking of activities that allow the child to express his sad feelings constructively.

Some constructive ways are:

1. Arts and crafts

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Drawing a picture of their feelings, singing, dancing, or building something.

2. Practicing Mindfulness

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Relaxation and mindfulness are also excellent methods, which are best learned at an early age. If your child is feeling especially sad, teach them how to breathe deeply. A deep breath increases the oxygen flow, which slows down the heartbeat. As a result, this can create a sense of being calm.

3. Visualization

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Some children find it soothing to imagine a happy and calm place, such as the seashore. While your child is visualizing his happy place, ask them to draw a picture of what they are imagining.

How parents can help Sad Children

If your child is feeling sad, make sure that you provide them with adequate emotional support. Doing that can help children to build further social relationships as well.

Here are five ways to help children when they’re sad:

1. spend quality time

One way of becoming the number one fervent supporter for a child is by spending quality time with them, encouraging them to talk openly and honestly, actively listen to what the child has to say, and acknowledge their inner struggles.

2. find balance

It is vital to find a balance between showing support and not being too pushy. Your child must know that they can come to you, but also try and solve issues on his own. For example, When your child finds solutions on his own, it will lift his emotional state, as he will experience the feeling of success.

3. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Physical and mental health affect each other. Furthermore, Physical exercises reduce depression symptoms, as they are great stress relievers. Also, try to teach your child about a healthy lifestyle, including eating healthy foods and physical activity. The best way of ensuring that your child is leading a healthy lifestyle is by providing them with an example and making healthy choices yourself.

4. Monitor Sleeping

Watch the sleeping patterns of your child. If your child isn’t sleeping enough, it might worsen depression symptoms.

5. Find Inspiration

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Your child mustn’t isolate himself. Ensure that you do your best to inspire the child to attend social activities, organize play dates or sleepovers, or attend family gatherings.

FAQ about sad children

Can babies be sad?

It is possible for babies to feel sadness. Babies begin interacting with the world and experiencing feelings from the moment they are born. Some signs of sadness in babies include crying with a downturned mouth and having a soft body.

Some experts believe that babies can experience depression, as well. Sad babies might also experience frequent tummy aches and headaches. If the baby has an unresponsive eye and isn’t connected, it might be a depression sign. For example, if you are trying to play with your baby, but the baby doesn’t engage back.

What to do when my child has no hope?

Hope is an essential feeling for children and adults. If you notice that your child is feeling hopeless, there are many ways of helping. Communication is key. Find ways of speaking to your child about how they feel and tell them about positive coping methods.

Reading is a great activity that can unconsciously affect how children feel about hope. There are various books with a positive message of hope.

You can also role-play about difficult situations that might come ahead. Teach your child that there are ways of coping with such situations without losing hope.

If you feel like, despite your efforts, the child remains feeling hopeless, Please speak to a mental health professional about it.

Is it okay for children to feel sad sometimes?

Children experience the same emotions as adults do, and in many cases, for similar reasons. Just as we feel sad, children can feel sad sometimes too, and this is a normal process of developing emotionally and growing up. If your child has been feeling sad for over a few weeks, it might mean that it isn’t just sadness, but perhaps depression, which needs treatment. If depression is left untreated, it can lead to severe complications.

My kid complains about everything. Does that mean he’s sad?

Complaining about everything isn’t necessarily a sign of being sad. However, it is a sign that your child focuses on the negative rather than the positive, which can put him at risk of suffering from a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression.

Children who complain about everything might also suffer from social problems, as children sometimes don’t like spending time with a child that complains often.

Do Sad children always complain?

When a child is always complaining, they are likely stuck in a so-called victim mentality.

A victim is aware of the negative aspect of a particular situation but won’t take any action to solve the issue. Teach children how to think and focus on things that they can control. If it’s raining, for example, and your child is complaining about not playing outside, encourage him to think of fun indoor activities.

There are cases in which complaining about everything is a warning sign of a mental health issue. Anxious and depressed children are likely to focus on the negative and not on the positive. If you notice other symptoms of depression or anxiety and suspect that your child complaining could be a sign of a mental health issue, please speak to a professional about it.

How to stop Children from complaining?

It is possible to help children who complain about everything by teaching them how to be more positive. Make sure that you acknowledge how your child feels and not minimize it. Encourage your child to think about the solution to the problem and consider options. Focusing on solutions can help him start to think about how to fix the problem instead of complaining about it.

If your child is having a difficult time, try not to jump in right away and help them, but rather allow him to figure the solution. Jumping in all the time can develop a feeling of helplessness in children, which makes him begin to think that he can’t solve the problem on his own, without other people having to help.

My 10-year-old boy cries easily. Is that one of the signs of depression in children?

As children grow older, they are less likely to cry, as they can now communicate their feelings with words and find it easier to speak about emotions, including sadness. Crying sometimes is okay, such as when something sad happens or after an injury. However, if you notice that your child cries a lot easier than usual, speak to a professional.

Crying a lot and easily, accompanied by other symptoms, such as low energy and decreased concentration, might mean that the child is sad or depressed. If you suspect a medical health issue in a child, make sure that you speak to a professional. There are hotlines available, which assist cases of depression in children.

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