Feature Article
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Jad Abou Akar
MDD in Children – Are the Kids Alright?
Here’s all you need to know and more…

Children are the ultimate example of happy beings, and the stereotype goes as follows: ecstatic, hyper and all over the place. Parents and caregivers are often heard complaining over the fact that the kids are too happy and excited all the time; others are annoyed by their constant need for playing, laughing or just running around. 

From now on let’s just be grateful for all that we used to complain about, for it could be so much worse. 

“Most people would be shocked to learn that some victims of depression are kids from the age of 2 to 10.” 

Etcetera spoke toclinical psychologist, Miss Ghania Kabbara, regarding this misconceived disorder, hoping to raise awareness on the most common form of depression in children aging 2 to 10 years: MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

Shouldn’t You Be THAT TALL to Ride the Depression Rollercoaster?

Depression is a mood disorder that comes in different forms (Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Psychotic Disorder, etc.). In children, it could be called “masked depression” because often do parents fail to realize that their children are going through emotional disturbances; they might mistake it for being upset, resentful or just passing through a difficult phase.

I Spy with My Little Eye Something Beginning with D? 

“There are a lot of overt-behavior symptoms when it comes to child MDD,” Miss Kabbara explains, “most of which are very similar to those of adult depression” she adds – we’re talking anger, sadness, crying, social isolation, sensitivity, an increased or decreased appetite, change in sleep (over sleeping or insomnia), difficulties concentrating, agitation, low energy (fatigue) and psychosomatic symptoms (headaches or other bodily pain).

“Thoughts might also be accompanied with feelings of guilt, worthlessness and giving up. It is rare that children get to the level of contemplating death and suicide, but it has happened before” Miss Kabbara further emphasizes. 

Accordingly, these symptoms could lead up to reach misbehaviors and a bad conduct (anger, frustration, arguments, fighting and aggression). “It is also important to know that some depressed kids may have comorbid behavioral disorder such as oppositional defiant disorder, where the child develops patterns of irritable and angry moods with argumentative and defiant behaviors.” Miss Kabbara says.

As a result, there will be an expected decline in the child’s school performance (dropping grades, no participation in class, feeling withdrawn from social circles/ friends, hiding in toilets or the nurse’s office).

Why, Why Oh Why?

Miss Kabbara clarifies that a typical cause of MDD in children entails a significant change in the child’s life, such as divorce, loss of a loved one, war or terror. It could also be due to the way the child was or is being raised – abuse (physical or verbal), neglect, exposure to domestic violence, bullying or over teasing and not being nurtured and loved properly by the parents. Depression could also run in the family and get passed on genetically.

“MDD could also be a secondary symptom due to a different disorder, illness, disability or condition” Miss Kabbara adds. For example, a child with learning difficulties could enter a depressive state when giving up on the material he is facing at school. Another example could be of a child who learned that they have a fatal disease. 

As Depression Could Be, Just Like with You and Me?

Though the symptoms are quite similar, Miss Kabbara reasons, the difference lies inhow child MDD could slip by unnoticed. Another difference is with the levels of anger and aggression; as kids are capable of being more violent and furious than adults because of their irrationality and lack of control overtheirbehavior and hyper tantrums. Kids also tend to bully when depressed, whereas adults go into a more isolated state.

It’s Not Your Fault, Kiddo! 

When it comes to mental disorders, we can’t help but pose the famous “nature vs nurture” debate. Nature, of course, is the state that an individual is born with – our predisposed biological state. Nurture, on the other hand, is the effect that the environment has on that individual. 

In the case of MDD, it is fair to say that it’s a balanced mix of both. “It is important to know that we all have predispositions of certain mental disorders, and it is upon environmental triggering factors that they become active in our systems” , Miss Kabbara affirms. This means that genetic depression, like other genetically passed mental disorders, could be dormant in your brain until they get triggered by an unfortunate incident.  

Is This a Good Time, Doctor? 

According to Miss Kabbara, Child depression is a common phenomenon all around the world, and it is prevalent even right here in Lebanon; thereis, however, no need to be scared, just seek the help of a professional for a good diagnosis and treatment.

Nonetheless, “There’s one major prerequisite for a psychologist’s diagnosis of MDD”, Miss Kabbara stresses – “knowing that the child has been exhibiting the behaviors and symptoms (or any significant change in behavior) for at least two weeks straight prior to seeking professional help”. 

“Bear in mind that depression in children is often confused with ADHD due to some overlapping symptoms between the two disorders.” Miss Kabbara warns. 

How Can I Help? 

Let’s start with spreading awareness on the greatly misconstrued topic, just like this article intends on doing. TV and other forms of media could also reach out to people who are facing the problem without actually understanding it. 

It is also important to educate the kids themselves so they can understand whatever they are passing through, therefore school workshops could help kids prevent reaching a depressive state; as it could also educate parents and school workers to better understand the children’s mental state, Miss Kabbara adds. 

Since our subjects are young, the effort to prevent and treat is a teamwork performed by family, friends, doctors, teachers and caregivers. The collaboration of each of these individuals really help in improving the state of the depressed child. 

“It is safe to say that providing a healthy environment and teaching children about self-care techniques are key when it comes to child MDD prevention”, Miss Kabbara concludes.


Ghania Kabbara was born and raised in Paris, France. She holds her BA in Psychology from the Lebanese American University and her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Haigazian University. She has had the opportunity to work in different mediums: schools, AUBMC, TV (The Voice Kids). She is currently working at IC as an elementary school counselor, alongside her private practice in Badaro where she receives children, adolescents and adults for therapy.

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  • My young daughter has discovered the Internet and now spends a lot of time browsing websites and social media networks. How can I monitor her online activity and ensure that she remains safe?

    Protecting our kids from the darker side of the Internet has never been more important or more difficult. Dealing with this problem is an evolving process. For kids younger than 10, you can set and impose limits on the amount of time spent online. You can also restrict access to mobile devices connected to the Internet and only allow your child to use them in the family room where you can supervise rather than in the privacy of their bedroom. Explain to your child that she should not give out personal identifying information (real name, home address, school name and address, parents’ names, pictures) to anyone she does not personally know. Repeat this lesson until your child can recite it in her sleep. You also have options that allow you to control for the most part what your child can see online. For example, iPads have parental controls and content filtering software that you can enable. Browsers also allow you to block certain websites. You have to make the constant effort to familiarize yourself with those options or enlist the help of a proficient friend or family member. It’s also preferable not to allow your children to register for social media accounts until they reach the age of 13.

    For teenagers, however, open and honest communication is the key to ensuring online safety. At this age, kids are Internet veterans and will often know the Internet much better than you do. Yet, they don’t have your caution or experience. It’s more effective to discuss potential scenarios with your child. Explain that anything he or she posts online will stay online forever and can impact her future choice of university or career. Explain that the internet does NOT give anonymity. Discuss online bullying and posting hurtful comments (remember that your teen may be encouraged to bully others online). Explain the dangers of speaking to and sharing personal information with strangers. It’s never too late to enforce boundaries. If you are worried, you can ask your teenager for access to their social media accounts and inform them that you will be checking in. Do not do this behind their backs. There are many resources online that can help you keep your kid safe. 

  • I read a lot about the benefits of learning how to play a musical instrument. But how can I pick an instrument for my kid to start playing?

    A child will reap the benefits of musical training regardless of what musical instrument he or she is playing. However, choosing the right instrument for your child and for your family environment remains important. Forcing children to learn instruments they have no interest in will not foster a love of music and might cause the child to resent having to practice. However, you also don’t want him or her to choose an instrument that does not suit your family. For example, if as a parent you do not like the sound of the electric guitar, you will not be able to support your child or endure the hours of practice he or she needs to put in. Parents also need to like the sound of the instrument their child is playing. Take into account your child’s body type and make sure he picks an instrument he is comfortable holding and carrying. Also, make sure your child’s choice is not affected by any perceived “social value” of an instrument. For younger kids (4-6) you can’t go wrong with the keyboard or piano as those instruments provide a great foundation and children can easily transition to other instruments later if they would like to. Violin is also a good option as it comes in scaled sizes, but it requires more patience and persistence. Another thing to take into account is your child’s personality type. High energy kids can get great stress relief from playing the drums, and outgoing personalities may prefer instruments such as the saxophone or trumpet. The most important consideration, however, remains your child’s personal preference and passion as those are the biggest guarantees that he or she will stick with the instrument long enough to earn the life-long benefits. 

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