Is my 3-year-old depressed?
Depression in early childhood looks different than it does later in life. Depressed youngsters are often irritable, become upset very easily, and overreact to criticism. Sulkiness, erratic interest or motivation in play activities, and excessive fearfulness may also be signs of depression. Sleep problems and eating pattern changes, important signs of depression in adults, are usually not present in young children who are depressed.
As you can guess, depression is hard to identify in early childhood, and that may account for why it is now believed that the illness is underidentified in this age group. Depression runs in families, so a strong family history of this disorder is important in considering depression as a cause for a behavioral disturbance. Children who are most vulnerable are those who are not attached to a caregiver, who've had a lot of separations, or for whom their primary caregiver isn't emotionally available, often due to other pressing concerns or depression in the adult. If you think your child is depressed, consult your child's primary care provider. A mental health referral may be needed. Depression at any age is a treatable disorder.