Depression is the most prevalent of all the emotional disorders. It is the most unpleasant experience a person can endure. It is far more difficult to cope with than a physical ailment.
Childhood is considered to be the best phase of life. The tears and trauma of childhood seems trivial to the problems in adult life. However, childrenís own view about their lives is quite different. They consider their lives as troubled and problematic as the adults views about their lives. Up and downs, sunny days and gloomy one are part of their lives too. There are days when they feel very happy and jubiliant and the days when they are gloomy and depressed. Depression thus is also a part of childhood.
The disorder is less clear-cut in younger children while in adolescents, it approximates to the adult condition. Profound depressions are rare in younger children but is not absent altogether.
A childís depression is not a scale down version of an adultís emotion. Children experience and express depression differently. The usual sign is withdrawl from his previous activities and friends. A depressed child is in a low mood, talks less and has few interactions. In some cases, however, a depressed child may be over-aggressive and hyperactive. This is just to cover up his depression. It is natural for a child to feel sad and distressed when he is hurt, but if the respnse is prolonged, beyond the usual natural duration, it becomes a cause for concern to parents. Fortunately, these negative feelings do not last for long with children.
It has now been recognised that babies as young as six months old experience depression, when suddenly seperated from their mothers and left with unfamiliar persons for care. The babies were found to be extremely subdued. It is also seen that two- year olds react the same way if the mothers leave them in care of the unfamiliar persons. On her return, the child clings to her and gets panicky if the mother even goes to another room , or is out of his sight. Thus, one of the most common causes for depression in children is the loss of a loved one.
Another casue of depression in children is snubbing by elders or teachers for doing badly in studies or sports. This gives the child a feeling that he is generally lagging behind and not as worthy as others. And this leads to depression.
It has recently been recognised that bereavement reactions can be profound in children. Poor communication of feelings among family members may mean that the childís distress has gone unrecognised. This may lead to a major disorder. Post-viral states can be associated with severe depressions.
The depressed children pull back into themselves. They may have problems adjusting in later life too. Besides psychological problems, depression also causes psychological problems. It may lead fatigue and may adversely affect immune and healing systems. A study in the United States linked asthmatic attacks in chldren and greater expectations from them, they are under more stress and consequently more prone to depression than children a generation ago.
Parents can do a lot to help their children when they are depressed. They should not snub the child. IN case he does not want to talk to his parents about hsi problems, he should be encouraged to give vent to his feelings to a person whom he can confide in.
Diet plays an important part in depression. The child patient should be encouraged to take liberal quantities of fresh fruits, milk and green vegetables. The diet should exclude tea, chocolate, and cola drinks as well as white flour products and condiments.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of depression. The use of apple is one such remedy. The fruit should be eaten with milk and honey. This will act as a very effective nerve tonic and recharge the nerves with new energy and life.
The use of cardamon (chhoti illachi) has proved valuable in depression. Powdered seeds should be boiled in water and a tea prepared in the usual way. It gives a very pleasing aroma to tea which can be used as a medicine in the treatment of this condition.
The cashewnut (kaju) is another effective remedy for general depression. It is rich in vitamins of B group, especially thiamine and therefore useful in stimuating appetite, and nervous system. It is also rich in riboflavin which keeps the body active, gay and energetic.
The depressive mood can be overcome by activity and the child patient should be encouraged to keep himself occupied. The grown up child should also be encouraged to undertake light exercise which not only keeps the body physically fit but also provides recreation and mental relaxation. It also gives the feeling of accomplishment and thus reduces the sense of helplessness.