Appetite Changes in Children
A child’s appetite naturally fluctuates over the course of their development. Growth spurts, changes in tastes, periodic illness and increases/decreases in activity level can all play a role in this. Often we are able to account for these changes and do not worry about it. There are times, however when we should be concerned about changes in a child’s appetite.
Sustained appetite loss or increased appetite (for 2 or more weeks) accompanied by mood and behavior changes could be a signal that a child is struggling. When a child is depressed, appetite disruption is one of several warning signs of which we should be aware. A child’s appetite may change in that they are either eating much more than usual or less than usual. Sleep is another function that becomes affected when a child is depressed. A child’s sleep can either increase significantly or decrease. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep are cosistent with childhood depression. It is also not uncommon for a depressed child or teen to start taking naps when historically they have not.
Other indicators of depression include:
– Persistent sadness or hopelessness
– Withdrawal from friends or activities they used to enjoy
– Increased irritability
– Poor concentration
– Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
– Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
– Increased physical complaints i.e., stomachaches, headaches
– Poor motivation
– Low energy
– Experimentation with alcohol or drugs
– Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
One or two of these symptoms does not mean that a child is depressed. However, if you notice several of these signs at the same time, it may be a good idea to explore changes or stressors which may be causing this. A referral for a psychological evaluation is always helpful to assist with treatment planning for these children.