Depression/Dysthymic Disorder:

Depressive disorders are marked by the presence of depressed or excessively sad mood, loss of pleasure in ordinary activities, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and a variety of changes in behavior such as withdrawal, lack of energy, excessive sleeping and decreased appetite.

In Major Depressive Disorder, thoughts of suicide are present along with the symptoms of depressed mood. In Dysthymic disorder negative mood is persistent but there are no reports of significant suicidal thinking or urges. Children suffering from the depressive disorders have little interest in their school or social activities and they often have difficulties in motivating themselves to perform even relatively simple tasks of daily living. They appear to be sad, empty and to have little hope that things will improve for them. Even when they are able to shake off the negative feelings for a period of time they tend to worry about their return and thus are rarely able to enjoy themselves. One of the most significant secondary problems caused by depressive disorders is that they interfere with the child's ability to invest energy in accomplishing important developmental tasks. Because of this, children suffering from depression often fail to develop age-appropriate social skills, as well as falling behind academically.

What to do about the symptoms of the Depressive Disorders:

1. Make sure that the child is diagnosed and treated in a comprehensive manner. Antidepressant medications may be useful for some children and adolescents so consult a pediatrician or child psychiatrist to see if a medication trial is warranted. Various individual and family therapy interventions are also known to be helpful in teaching the child how to deal with the symptoms and also to help them counteract the many negative social and self-esteem problems that accompany the depressive conditions.

2. Encourage and guide the child in physical activities, as exercise is known to directly reduce symptoms of depression. It may be necessary for you to play and exercise with the child rather than simply telling her or him to go ride a bike. Instead, think of active games and tasks around the home that will get the child moving.

3. Teach the child additional daily living skills such as food preparation, cleaning and simple repair or construction skills around the home. Remember that anything that helps the child feel more in control of his or her world and life will combat the depressive symptoms. Also, encourage the child to engage in a variety of expressive activities such as drawing, painting and writing to help them process negative feelings.

4. Provide additional nurturing to the child by reading, cuddling or otherwise providing comfort in a direct manner. Do this even when the child is not expressing overt sadness so that she or he does not come to believe that they can only be comforted when they complain of feeling bad.

Copyright 2004-2010 by Edward L. Coyle, Ph.D./Digital Success Tools. All rights reserved. May be reproduced only for personal use and may not be distributed without written permission under penalty of law.

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