Pediatric Depression

Some children and teenagers are more likely than others to have depression. The good news is, it’s very treatable through medications, therapy and exercise. At Children’s Health℠, you’ll find leading experts on depression and other mental health issues in children. We’ll work with your whole family to help put your child on track to a brighter, happier life.

What is Pediatric Depression?

Every child or teenager experiences bad moods and has bad days. Depression goes beyond this.

Depression is a serious mental illness that can lead to long-lasting feelings of intense sadness and helplessness. It can wreak havoc on your child’s appetite, sleeping patterns and physical activity. Depression can severely change how your child acts, thinks and feels. Because depression is a medical illness, it’s not something that can “go away” on its own, without treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Depression?

Signs of depression can include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite and sleep
  • Frequent outbursts or crying
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Impaired concentration or thinking
  • Physical complaints unrelated to injury or illness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness

How is Pediatric Depression diagnosed?

If you’ve noticed depression symptoms in your child for more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with their doctor. The doctor will ask you and your child a series of questions to determine if your child has depression.

These questions may include things like:

  • Whether your child has been having negative feelings and what those look like
  • If their habits have changed (including changes with friends or school performance)
  • If there are recent events in your child’s life that could contribute to depression

Some doctors will also use questionnaires to assess your child’s symptoms.

Your doctor will also conduct a medical examination to see if any physical problems play a role in your child’s mindset.

What are the causes of Pediatric Depression?

As with adults, depression in children can be caused by a variety of factors relating to physical health, life events or stress, family history, environment, genetics and biochemical imbalances.

How is Pediatric Depression treated?

Depression rarely goes away on its own. If it’s not treated, a single episode of depression can last from six to nine months – as long as an entire school year. Children’s Health offers a variety of treatments, including medication management, counseling services and sleep programs to help your child cope and recover. Our treatments and approaches include:


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used medicines for depression. They help with depression by increasing the levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that sends signals between brain cells) in the brain.

Counseling services

Medication by itself won’t “fix” your child’s depression. They’ll need to meet with one of our trained child psychologists or psychiatrists for help. That’s why we offer one-on-one counseling services and family therapy for your child.

Additional therapies

Exercise has been shown to be helpful in improving symptoms of depression and preventing relapse in children. Interventions that improve sleep can also be used to improve depressive symptoms.

Pediatric Depression Doctors and Providers

We have a team of pediatric psychologists, pediatric psychiatrists, social workers, recreational therapists and licensed professional counselors who can help your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age group has the highest rate of depression?

    Among children, the highest rate of depression is seen among teens between the ages of 13 and 18.

  • What are three major effects of depression on children?

    Depression can have wide-ranging effects on a child’s life. These can include:

    • Poor school performance or getting worse grades
    • Lack of interest in positive activities such as sports and social gatherings
    • Family problems
  • Where do I take my child to be evaluated for depression?

    First, start the conversation with your child’s doctor about the symptoms they are experiencing. Your doctor can do a screening evaluation for depression. If needed, they can refer you to a child psychologist or child psychiatrist for further treatment.