Morning Rounds: Physical signs of depression

NORFOLK, Va. - As the new school year kicks off, doctors are urging parents to be vigilant about noticing any signs of depression in their children.  However, the mood disorder can have physical symptoms, too.

"Often a teen will present with unexplained aches or pains," said Dr. Ryan Light.  "Commonly the symptoms are headache, stomach ache, back pain, joint pain, or chest pain. These symptoms usually can not be explained by the history or physical exam."

Dr. Light also encouraged parents to look out for the common signs such as change in mood, tearfulness, irritability, sadness, and withdrawal from friends and family.

He also said parents should pay attention if their child experiences:

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school performance
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

"Parents should be on the look out for the common signs such as change in mood, tearfulness, irritability, sadness, and withdrawal from friends and family," he continued.

"If your teen is experiencing any of these signs they should be evaluated for the possibility of depression," said Dr. Light, urging parents to discuss it with their primary care physician or pediatrician first.  "Recognizing depression early in teenagers has the best success."

"Talk with them in a loving, nonjudgmental way in order to open up lines of communication," he advised.  "If you suspect more serious depression contact the crisis hotline. If your teen is not willing to communicate, have them follow up with their physician."

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