Frequently Asked Questions about Depression

Frequently Asked Questions about Depression

What if my child is just depressed but does not have depression?

How a parent or family member deals with sadness or depression depends on many things and is ultimately a family and personal decision. As a mental health professional, I encourage people to talk about feelings. I have found that asking about and discussing feelings allows for open conversations and often helps a child process why he or she might be feeling a certain way. Talking and asking questions shows you are interested in another person’s well-being. It’s important to pay attention to how your child is feeling and acting.

What is seasonal affective disorder? Is this even real?

Seasonal affective disorder is thought of as a type of major depression that is connected to seasons. The possible symptoms of a depressive episode in seasonal affective disorder and major depression are the same. Seasonal affective disorder is considered as a possible diagnosis when depressive episodes occur during a specific season every year for at least 2 years, and depressive episodes do not occur during other seasons of the year. While the causes of seasonal affective disorder are still being studied, it has been proposed that experiencing less sunlight may contribute to the disorder.

Are there risk factors for depression?

There are some biological and environmental factors that make some youth more likely to experience depression than others. For example, youth with a blood relative with a history of depression, suicidality, or another related mental health disorder are more likely to have a depressive episode. Also, females and LGBTQ youth are at greater risk for developing depression. Additional risk factors include:

  • brain chemistry and changes in hormones;
  • recent or ongoing stressors, such as bullying, academic problems, or parental divorce;
  • a history of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse or witnessing violence;
  • having another mental health disorder;
  • substance abuse; and
  • having a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, sickle-cell disease, or cancer.

It is important to note that some individuals experience most of these risk factors without developing depression, and others experience only one or two of these risk factors and still experience a depressive episode.

J. P. Reyes, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at the Special Needs Clinic in the Department of Pediatric Psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. There he works with youth, adults, and families affected by chronic medical illness. Dr. Reyes specializes in the evaluation and treatment of depressive, anxiety, trauma-related, mood, and behavioral disorders using evidence-based interventions including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and parent management training (PMT). He is also invested in the training of new clinicians and provides supervision to psychology and psychiatry trainees.