The American Psychiatric Association makes the distinction between a major depressive episode, which is severe, versus dysthymia, a latent condition (APA, 2013). Mood disorders can appear differently through the lifespan, especially as children may be unable to verbalize their sadness. The symptoms caregivers may see in children are irritability, getting into fights, or avoidance. Alternately, children may present with physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. Older children may present with more typical symptoms such as sadness, loss of energy, low self-esteem and a lack of motivation.

Children may be unable to put words to their feelings; therefore it is important to keep an eye out for a broad range of symptoms. Problems with sleep, problems with appetite – eating too much or too little, withdrawal or lack of interests, irritability, concentration problems, thoughts of death.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.


Disclaimer: Resources, information, and links on the Transitional Care Website are provided as a courtesy to our visitors in order to increase knowledge and awareness of issues surrounding childhood mental health. These are not intended to replace or act as professional medical advice. Please consult a mental health professional if you have questions or concerns.