Depression in the child

In some periods of the child’s development, depressive aspects emerge. These are normal and necessary phases of change. This change is both physical and psychological and the child finds it difficult to adapt. We will limit ourselves here to the three most important ones.

Anxiety at the age of eight months

This fear reaction occurs in the child because he is not comfortable with or is afraid of unfamiliar people in his environment. This may differ from child to child, but usually this fear is not abnormal: it shows very simply that the child is now able to distinguish its mother (or her replacement) from a strange person; it also means that he finds it difficult to tolerate her absence.

Depressive tendencies in the Oedipus phase

Between the ages of 4 and 7, the child is attracted to the parent of the opposite sex. This makes him feel guilty about the rivalry with the parent of the same sex. This feeling of guilt can lead to feelings of depression . Especially if the child is afraid that this will mean missing out on the love of one of the parents. In little girls, this state of conflict is more ambiguous and often vaguer because for her the mother is at the same time a rival and an object of love. These depressive feelings are not abnormal, they indicate that it is difficult to experience this psychological development phase and get through it. It is not dramatic, but one must be vigilant to be able to help the child in time.

Depressive thoughts in the teenage years

In the teenage years , depressive thoughts are very common, because the teenager is indeed in a phase of life in which he has to renounce a number of things, a kind of symbolic period of mourning. Along with the physical and biological changes of puberty, a real psychological change also occurs, renouncing the carefree childhood. In addition to these normal phases of change, in which moments of depression occur regularly, some children experience much more pronounced episodes of depression . In order to recognize this in time, we provide a brief description below.

Depression in infants (0-1 years)

This depression is most commonly found in infants who stay in the hospital for a longer period of time. This phenomenon is described under the name hospital syndrome. The depressed infant ‘s reactions proceed in two phases. In the first, he is very irritable and very dependent, he cries incessantly and constantly demands the attention of the adult.

In the second phase, after about 3 months, he becomes less expressive in expression and gaze. This can continue until it resembles shock or daze. Such conditions occur in infants who have to be repeatedly placed in homes, or who have been abandoned, abused and severely disturbed because they are not accepted by their parents ( infant abuse does exist!). Other forms of parental behavior also have a harmful influence on children: eg unforeseeable punitive measures, conflicting messages or signals, which cause perception difficulties on both sides. As a result, these problems cause contact disorders, which in turn lead to frustrations and reciprocal disappointments: the parent no longer enjoys being with the baby, who in turn no longer enjoys it and thus annoys the adult.

Depression in the child (1-12 years)

The most striking thing here is that the child is sad and depressed : he often cries, often for no apparent reason. When questioned, his distress seems real and permeates his expressions, his voice, his look or his facial expressions. It is not an act to influence the adult. He is really sad and affected. It expresses moral pain that comes from within. Such depression can be manifested by very different behaviors:

  • The child stays away from others; in class he is often lost in his own world. Usually those around him do not notice this because he throws himself into his work with great enthusiasm. But children who devote themselves to their school activities in such a way neglect everything else to compensate. But there are also children who turn inward and drop out of school. They do not listen and cannot concentrate, they are often blamed a lot, but they feel unhappy and alone.
  • There are also children who cannot stay in place for a moment, who move constantly and make a lot of noise (they are called hyperkinetic ). Such children find it very difficult to concentrate and this has an impact on their school results.
  • In both species, insomnia and difficulty falling asleep (due to fear or worry) or frequent waking during the night are common; bedwetting ( enuresia ) is almost always part of it.

Depression in the teenager

Almost all teenagers go through a melancholy period. However, we should not confuse the hesitant periods in which the teenager searches for himself with depression. The real depression in teenagers is often hidden behind physical ailments such as headaches, various aches and pains and fatigue, or behind challenging behavior such as running away from home, criminal acts, alcohol and/or drug use. Behind this impulsive and defiant behavior there is always a lack of self-esteem, a feeling of powerlessness and the meaninglessness of existence. Too little attention is often paid to it, because the different showers follow each other so quickly.

When we say “that’s the age, it will pass, just be patient”, the teenager feels misunderstood, not helped. It is therefore better to provoke a conversation about it so that they can express themselves, because only by trying to express what is going on will he learn to feel where exactly he wants to go. However, it is also necessary for parents to continue to defend their position. The extremes that are possible in the attitude of parents, “parent martyrs”, versus “dominating, authoritarian parents” can only aggravate the problems in their teenagers because it makes it impossible for them, as the psychologist calls it, to experience a difference.