With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.
-William Wordsworth

Low-Grade Depression (Dysthymia) in Children, Adolescents & Teens

Low-Grade Depression, Dysthymia, Persistent Depressive Disorder in Children, Adolescents & Teens

As with adults, Low-Grade Depression in children is characterized by chronic feelings of little energy, malaise, generally depressed mood, low self-esteem, poor motivation, poor appetite or overeating, hopelessness and irritability, difficulty in concentrating and/or making decisions. Children and adolescents are typically more prone to irritability than to chronic sad and depressed moods.

Symptoms of Low-Grade Depression / Dysthymia in Children, Adolescents & Teens

Persistent Depressive Disorder in Children, Adolescents & Teens is a mental health disorder characterized by a sad mood that is both prolonged and severe. While every child may experience symptoms differently, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Hopelessness, helplessness or inadequacy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hypersensitivity to failure or rejection
  • Instability, hostility or aggression
  • Excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought happiness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Decreased energy
  • Frequent physical complaints about headaches, stomach aches or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions
  • Difficulty managing relationships
  • Running away or making threats to run away from home
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Three other conditions must exist before a child can be diagnosed with Major Depression:

  • The symptoms must persist for at least two weeks.
  • The symptoms must be causing distress and/or negatively impact his or her ability to function at home, at school or with friends.
  • The mood must represent a distinct change from how he or she acted previously.

Treatment for Low-Grade Depression / Dysthymia in Children, Adolescents & Teens

Low-Grade Depression in children, adolescents and teens can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Even the most severe cases of childhood persistent depressive disorder can be treated, and treatment is most effective when it is started early.

It is important to recognize that every child is affected by depression in their own way, and treatment must be customized to the individual. In other words, there is no single pre-defined dysthymia treatment that works for everyone.

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating dysthymia. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of depression, including:

Medication, specifically antidepressants, may help improve the way the brain manages chemicals that control mood or stress. Every child will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

Get Help for Low-Grade Depression / Dysthymia in Children, Adolescents & Teens

If someone you know or care for is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for dysthymia, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Depression in Children, Adolescents & Teens »