Helping a child thrive and grow into a successful adult is paramount for most parents, but the road can be tricky. In today’s landscape, the burgeoning influx of stimuli stemming from social media and information overload has given a discernible rise in mental health concerns within younger demographics, including more cases of depression. So how can one discern whether a child or teen is dealing with depression or another issue entirely? The answer is rooted in a foundational grasp of mental wellness.

What Is Depression?


When some people hear “depression,” they think of sadness, but this constitutes a mental health disorder, exerting its influence over cognition, emotions, conduct, and overall well-being. It can also impact the development of children and teens. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty in school
  • Loss of interest
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Low energy

For parents and educators, the emergence of these symptoms in a child’s demeanor for two weeks or longer should set off an alarm, warranting earnest consideration of the possibility of depression. In this endeavor, a valuable diagnostic instrument, like the (CDI 2) Children’s Depression Inventory, Second Edition, is at our disposal.

Could It Be Something Else?

While depression is on the rise among young people, it may not be why a child is acting differently or feeling down. Other mental health problems can take a toll on teenagers and children, as well as physical issues.


Depression and anxiety can have similar symptoms, such as irritability, sleeping problems, lack of concentration, and nervousness. The two conditions are different in that depression is associated with negativity and hopelessness, while anxiety stems from worrying about the future and feeling overwhelmed by one’s circumstances.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is another common mental health concern that can sometimes mimic depression symptoms. People with ADHD may struggle to focus on meaningful things and have difficulty maintaining social connections. The stress and work of managing ADHD can also cause sadness, leading to depression. Luckily, there are various ADHD assessments available to diagnose and treat children early.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that involves extreme swings between mental states. Many people can experience very elevated moods characterized by a manic state and then fall into a depressive mood. Sometimes, observers can ignore mania when channeled into productivity and only recognize the depressive moments as a problem, wrongly assuming a child or teen has depression.

Medical issues such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and vitamin D deficiency can lower energy levels and mimic depression.

Get Answers With a Depression Assessment

Depression is a condition found in individuals of all ages. For children and teens, it’s critical to assess and receive treatment as early as possible. Use an assessment to see if your child or student is dealing with depression or another medical issue mimicking its symptoms to improve their well-being.

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