Dear Dr. Michelle:
We have visited our doctor for a few regular check-ups and she is telling us that our son has depression. He does not seem sad and he is not crying all the time like we would expect if he really was depressed. Why would she think he has depression?
Evelyn and Dewald
Dear Evelyn and Dewald:
I can understand your confusion, particularly if your doctor has assessed the situation over just a few regular check-up appointments. Emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues can be difficult to diagnose, so it is good that you are seeking alternative views. Keep doing your research because at the end of the day, you know your child best.
My advice is to ask your doctor what criteria she used to determine her assessment and what specific signs led her to this conclusion. If the examples she provides are not behaviors you have observed, be honest and share your experiences. To make sense out of your doctor’s assessment, it is possible that your son reported experiences to her that he has not shared with you. It is quite common for a child to be nervous about sharing private thoughts and feelings with their parents so as not to disappoint.
Be aware that depression can manifest itself in many different ways, particularly in children. A child might be sad and perhaps they will cry a lot, but for your son, it could be a totally different experience. A child with depression can also be withdrawn from daily activities and people. Perhaps your son is sleeping much more than usual and has lost interest in things that at one time seemed more exciting to him.
Children can also be depressed and still be getting through their regular routine, but if asked, they might express that they are feeling distracted or are forcing themselves to get through an activity. Many people also do not know that children can demonstrate depression by being aggressive, short-tempered, cross, or have a negative attitude toward self and others. If you are worried about your child’s behavior, your other recourse is to take your child in for a psychological evaluation. There are professionals who are trained to specifically assess and diagnose emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues and they will do so based on well-studied and valid assessment tools. Hang in there and keep learning. If you keep at your research and inquiry, you will learn what is going on with your son and will know better how to help him.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.