Difficulty with Diagnoses

If your doctor tells you that your child may be depressed, what does that really mean?

Photo Credit: ? by Leo Amato CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Maybe some of the “symptoms” they have could be from something else like:

  • trouble adjusting to a new situation at school or home
  • a bad break-up, a friend who let them down, or not making a sports team or other extracurricular
  • bullying at school
  • a medical problem like anemia (a low blood count), headaches, belly pain
  • not getting enough sleep from being overscheduled, overhomeworked, too much online time, or having to wake up too early
  • another mental health or physical problem like ADHD, anxiety, or anemia

Don’t some people even have thoughts of harming themselves but in the end they don’t end up having depression?

It is true that depression can be difficult to diagnose, especially in adolescents and young people, whose moods seem to change every day. Young people have developing brains and because they keep changing, it is hard to know whether some of the symptoms they have are here to stay or not. That’s why health professionals might have to see your child for several visits before they can get a better idea of what is going on.

At the same time, if your child does have depressive symptoms, there are two important reasons why getting treatment is a good idea to consider:

  • If your child does have depression that is not treated, the symptoms can get worse. Young people with depression have trouble with their academics. They are also more likely to have health problems like obesity or migraine headaches, be involved with alcohol or drug use, and it can overall keep them from achieving their goals.
  • Seeing a therapist can help your child learn new skills which can help them a lot even if they don’t have depression. One of the major treatments that can help with sleep issues and anxiety and problems with pain or headaches is the same type of therapy which is recommended for depression: cognitive behavioral therapy.

For more information about diagnosing depression, see the AACAP Facts for Families handout.

Tell us what you think below. If your child has have depression for a while, do you think it took some time to really understand what was going on with them?

Leave a Reply