Childhood depression is another common psychiatric disorder.  Like ODD, it may occur along with ADHD or by itself.  To assess your child for depression, please answer the following questions rating them as not at all, just a little, pretty much or very much. The symptoms must have occurred for 2 straight weeks or longer.

  • My child is depressed or irritable most of the day, nearly every day.
  • My child has diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • My child has had significant weight loss when not dieting or he/she fails to make appropriate weight gains.
  • My child has trouble sleeping or sleeps too much nearly every day.
  • My child is restless and he/she has slowed down nearly every day which is obvious to others.
  • My child shows fatigue or loss of energy, nearly every day.
  • My child expresses feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt nearly every day.
  • My child has a diminished ability to think or concentrate or he/she is indecisive nearly every day.
  • My child has expressed thoughts of death, suicide or has made a suicide attempt.

Every child, adolescent and adult has times when he/she feels down or depressed, but the frequency and severity is less than a child who has true clinical depression.  If you answered at least 5 of 9 symptoms with pretty much or very much, you’ll definitely want to have your child evaluated by an experienced clinical psychologist.  Because of the possibility of suicide, depression needs to be treated by a clinician who understands the seriousness of your child’s problems.  Steps should be taken to remove possible suicide tools from the home—guns, knives, pills, etc.  Remember, diagnosing your child with depression is much more involved that simply answering these questions.

There certainly can be nutritional and biochemical problems in ODD and childhood depression.  It just makes sense that if you don’t provide the brain with all the raw materials it needs to function, it won’t perform normally.  So providing a good, nutritional diet can help.  If your child just refuses to eat much or chooses the wrong foods, you may want to give him/her a vitamin and a mineral pill that contain just RDA amounts of the nutrients.  Look for ones that are uncolored and unflavored.  Your pharmacist can help you or you can get help at the health food store.  Stay away from high potency ones unless you have a doctor to assist you because some children are worse on high levels of B vitamins. At the same time, keep trying to improve your family’s diet.  There is much more to nutrition that just getting vitamins and minerals!

There really isn’t much research on foods sensitivities and depression but trying a careful elimination diet as described in Laura Steven’s book “12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child” may be helpful.  Foods can cause strange reactions.  If your child is depressed, make sure you are present when foods are put back into his diet.  If he has a severe reaction to a food, try 2 Alka-Seltzer Gold (without aspirin) in a glass of water.

Essential fatty acids have been shown to be helpful in treating adults for depression and bipolar disorder, but no work has been done in children. If your child has excess thirst, frequent urination, dry skin, dry hair, dandruff, brittle nails or nails that peal easily your child may have a deficiency of essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3s.  Your child doesn’t need to show all these symptoms.



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