Depression | Symptoms and Causes

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Contact the Department of Psychiatry

  • 617-355-6680

What are the symptoms of depression?

While each child may experience symptoms differently, some of the most common include:

  • persistent feelings of sadness
  • feeling hopeless or helpless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling inadequate
  • excessive guilt
  • loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed
  • difficulty with relationships
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • decreased energy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble making decisions
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • frequent physical complaints such as headaches, stomach aches or fatigue
  • running away or threats of running away from home
  • hypersensitivity to failure or rejection
  • irritability, hostility, aggression

What causes depression?

While the exact cause of depression and other mood disorders is not known, they've been linked to genetics and environmental factors. The most common factors associated with depression include:

  • family history of depression
  • parents’ divorce
  • excessive stress
  • abuse or neglect
  • trauma (physical and/or emotional)
  • loss of a parent, caregiver or other loved one
  • loss of a relationship, such as moving away or loss of boyfriend/girlfriend
  • failure to accomplish tasks such as learning to read, or keeping up with peers in other activities
  • chronic illnesses, such as diabetes
  • other psychiatric disorders
  • other developmental, learning or conduct disorders

There are biological, psychological and social factors that can contribute to depression separately or in combination.

  • Depression is thought to be caused by a difference in the structure and function of your child’s brain that controls the intensity of sad or irritable moods.
  • There may be a genetic component. If other members of your family have had depression, your child is more likely to develop it, too.
  • A stressful environment at home, school or in the community can contribute to depression.
  • Children may experience depression if they feels unhappy with their environment and powerless to make any change to it.
Low thyroid levels may sometimes cause fatigue and other symptoms that may mimic symptoms of depression. Your child’s doctor can discuss this with you in more detail.
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