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Depression, also known as clinical depression, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as major depressive disorder (MDD). It is classified as a type of affective disorder, or mood disorder, and is characterized by intense and persistent sadness. Depression is essentially the physiological manifestation of the dysregulation of one’s brain function that controls emotions. It is normal for situations that are stressful, painful, and/ or difficult to elicit fluctuating emotions. As a child, it is to be expected to endure the entire spectrum of emotions: including feelings of sadness, elation, depression, frustration, pride, accomplishment, anxiety, calmness, etc. For the typically developing child, although the feelings may be intense, they are also fleeting and will generally subside as quickly as was their onset. However, a child with MDD will experience pervasive emotions (symptoms of depression) that interfere with his or her ability to properly function in daily life, leading to educational, personal, social and/ or family difficulties.

Risks and Long-term Effects

Depression is rarely diagnosed in young children but increases in prevalence through the teenage years. Still, young people diagnosed with depression are more likely to suffer a wide range of illnesses later in life, some of which include the following, provided from a variety of sources:

  • Compromises development as it interferes with the achievement of key developmental tasks (e.g., academic achievement, negotiating changes in family relationships, and establishing peer networks) 
  • Suicidality, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Among high school students in 2019, 36.7% reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless in the past year, and 18.8% had seriously considered attempting suicide.”
  • Atherosclerosis, which the Mayo Clinic explains “is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls. This buildup is called plaque. The plaque can cause arteries to narrow, blocking blood flow. The plaque can also burst, leading to a blood clot.”

As is indicated above, childhood depression is associated with a variety of risks and a range of adverse later outcomes. A long-term, large-scale observational study from 2020 found that childhood depression is linked to premature death, which one could argue is its most serious risk. 

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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