All of us have experienced a morning where we’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed from time to time, so to speak. A mood follows us all day and seems to taint all of our interactions and efforts. However, this mood eventually dissipates and we are back to an emotional equilibrium. As a parent, you are undoubtedly highly attuned to any changes in the weather of your child’s emotions, taking note of any extreme variations from day to day. When your child returns home from school feeling dejected, irritated, and hopeless, does this warrant a trip to a mental health professional for an assessment for depression, or might it be an indication of low self-esteem?
While low self-esteem may be a risk factor for developing depression, the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. A child with low self-esteem may perceive themselves as incapable, feel “not good enough”, make self-critical comments such as “nobody likes me at all”, be unable to accept praise or constructive criticism, avoid trying new things, punish themselves for making a mistake, and put in extra effort into gaining the approval of parents, peers, and teachers. Depression in children may present as persistent and daily irritability, ceasing to enjoy or desire to participate in once pleasurable activities, increase or decrease in consumption of food, sleep disturbance or a desire to sleep more than usual, inability to pay attention, lower energy levels, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness, and any indication of self-harm or destructive behaviors.
Though many of the symptoms overlap, depressive symptoms may be pervasive and negatively impact and impair them in all areas of functioning, perhaps necessitating an intervention by a licensed mental health professional, especially if the child becomes a risk to themselves or others due to inability to cope. For example, if a child begins to forego their favorite pastimes and instead to isolate, refuses to eat altogether or starts to binge eat regularly, cannot fall or stay asleep or wants to sleep all day, becomes increasingly negative and irritable at what appear to be benign circumstances, begins to self-injure, and exhibits an attitude of hopelessness, the culmination of these symptoms may require a diagnosis of depression.
Children with low self-esteem may become depressed at some point in their lives, however, simply having low self-esteem is not an indication that depression is on the horizon. Self-esteem may vary based upon the child’s experiences over time, increasing when they have achieved mastery over a once difficult task and decreasing when rejected by a peer group, for example. Intervention for low self-esteem and depression varies in that depression may necessitate psychotherapy and depending on the level of impairment, medication treatment. The most important distinction is the increasing level of impairment in social and relational areas of a child’s life, especially regarding a sense of hopelessness which may indicate depression. Though low self-esteem may fluctuate and vary depending on a child’s stages of development, depressive symptoms will persist until the source is identified and treated. You know your child best and checking in with them regularly to identify the source of new and negative behaviors, especially if they have a lower self-esteem, may work as a preventative measure to mitigate the onset and development of depression.
Are you ready to take the next step? Our Clinicians at Outside the Norm Counseling are ready to help. Schedule your appointment today by calling: (951) 395-3288