According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) children and teens will often express depression differently than adults. The following are potential signs.
- Difficulty with relationships.
- Increased irritability, anger or hostility.
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.
- Low self-esteem and guilt.
- Social isolation, poor communication.
- Persistent boredom; low energy.
- Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities.
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying.
- Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches.
- Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school.
- Poor concentration.
- A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns.
- Talk of or efforts to run away from home.
- Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior.
As NAMI notes, elementary children more often complain of aches and pains rather than verbally state they are depressed. Depressed teens may become aggressive, abuse drugs or alcohol, do poorly in school or run away. In contrast to outward appearances, on the inside they are often experiencing feelings of isolation, emptiness and hopelessness.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme moods alternating between a very high, manic state and a low, depressive state. These mood states are called episodes and can change or cycle multiple times a day or from days to months. Occasionally, someone may experience both mania and depression which is called a mixed episode.
Often the first signs of bipolar disorder are severe moodiness, unhappiness or others symptoms of depression. The first manic episode develops next, possibly triggered by stress or trauma, but sometimes there is not a clear reason. Symptoms of bipolar disorder fall into two categories: mania and depression.
Symptoms of mania include:
- Acting overly joyful or silly that is not normal behavior.
- Having a short fuse or extremely short temper.
- Appearing to be thinking or talking a mile a minute.
- Sleeping very little without feeling tired.
- Talking and thinking about sex more than usual.
- Engaging in risky behavior, thrill seeking behavior or over-involvement in activities.
- Hallucinations or delusions, which can result from severe episodes of mania.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling extremely sad or hopeless.
- Being in an irritable mood.
- No longer interested in activities that were once enjoyed–hobbies, sports, friendships.
- Sleeping too much, hardly ever or trouble falling asleep.
- Moving slowly or restlessness.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Little or no energy.
- Problem concentrating.
- Aches and pains for no reason.
- Recurrent thoughts or talk of death or suicide. During a period of depression thoughts or talking about suicide must be taken seriously.
Children and teenagers often have early warning signs that show bipolar disorder might be developing.Children may experience severe temper tantrums when told “no.” Tantrums can last for hours while the child continues to become more violent. They may also show odds displays of happy or silly moods and behaviors.
Teenagers may experience a drop in grades or suspension from school, quit a sports team or other activity, be arrested for fighting or drug use, engage in risky sexual behavior possibly resulting in pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, or talk about death or suicide.
Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Greater Milwaukee Chapter
National Alliance on MentaI lllness
National Institute of Mental Health
Wisconsin Department of Human Services Community Mental Health Services