Is Childhood Clinical Depression Preventing Your Child from Learning?

While adults may be more prone to develop depression symptoms, children and adolescents can become vulnerable as well. According to an American Family Physician report, childhood clinical depression affects two percent of pre-pubescent children and as much as five to eight percent of adolescents in any given year. As depression covers a spectrum of severities and symptoms, a child can experience mild as well as severe forms of depression.

Much like depression’s effects on an adult’s work life, childhood clinical depression can affect a child’s performance in school. Whether depression symptoms result from problems at home or problems at school, the overall effects of childhood clinical depression can ultimately impair a child’s cognitive functioning abilities.

Childhood Clinical Depression

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Problems concentrating, low energy levels, headaches and school phobia are some of the warning signs.

The symptoms for childhood clinical depression closely resemble those for adult clinical depression. The primary difference between the two conditions lies in the behavioral display in terms of children versus adults. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, common symptoms of childhood clinical depression include:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in mood
  • Low energy levels
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems concentrating
  • Crying spells
  • Overall sad or depressed demeanor

Symptoms lasting more than two weeks may indicate a clinical depression condition exists. Equally important are the effects these symptoms have on a child’s ability to carry out everyday activities, such as functioning within a classroom setting and interacting with peers.

As with adult depression disorders, there’s a high likelihood a child will also experience and display anxiety disorder symptoms as well. The inner turmoil a child experiences as a result of depression and anxiety symptoms can greatly impair his or her ability to learn in both the classroom and at home.

Depression Effects on Learning

As children have little control over their surrounding environments, they can easily internalize distressing emotions when family conflicts or problems at school arise. Childhood clinical depression symptoms develop as modes of expression for internalized emotions. Symptoms displayed may include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • School phobia
  • Separation anxiety
  • Temper tantrums

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, the features of childhood clinical depression can impair a child’s ability to learn in the following ways:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Poor memory capabilities
  • Fatigue
  • Short attention span
  • Inability to complete tasks

Resulting problems with interpersonal peer relationships can further aggravate depression symptoms making classroom learning all the more difficult.

Academic Performance

While depression can impair a child’s overall academic performance, poor academic performance in general can give rise to depression symptoms in children, especially when parents, teachers and peers devalue him or her in the process. In this instance, depression symptoms make it even more difficult for a child to learn as academic problems were the original driving force for the disorder.

Whether depression stems from internalized emotions or poor academic performance, its overall effects impact a child’s cognitive abilities and overall emotional adjustment in general. Language skills performance, attention and processing speed and verbal learning skills can show considerable decline in children who suffer from childhood clinical depression disorders.

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