What Causes Childhood Depression

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 23, 2023

I admire your love for your child. You care enough to be right here, learning about the possibility of your child being depressed—or what to do if you already know they’re depressed.

This is important: one recent study by a major university revealed that HALF of 33,000 older children screened positive for depression and/or anxiety.

I’m going to teach you:

  • How to know if your child is depressed.
  • The REAL reason your child is depressed (and it’s not what you think).
  • Why you just can’t seem to help him or her be happy, no matter what you do.
  • What you can do to ELIMINATE—not just manage—the depression, almost always without medication. Really.
  • How you can replace depression in your child with genuine peace and happiness.

Childhood Depression Signs

Depression is crippling. It crushes the soul of a child and isolates them from relationships and all possibility of happiness. We must recognize depression earlier, so we can do something about it. 

Almost never will a child tell you about their depression. No, you have to LOOK for it. Ask yourself if you see any of this on a persistent basis:

  • They just seem “down,” often for no obvious reason.
  • Have they lost interest in the activities they used to enjoy?
  • Decreased energy, like everything they do is an effort
  • Expressions like, “I can’t do anything right.”
  • Pessimism, hopelessness, sometimes the words, “What does it matter?” or “Who cares?”
  • Trouble sleeping. Or sleeping all day
  • Can’t concentrate on homework or conversations.
  • Irritability, over-reacting to the smallest events or comments
  • Facial expressions of pain or sometimes complete detachment
  • Frequent and chronic aches and pains, headaches, cramps, and digestive problems that don’t resolve with treatment
  • Expressions of discouragement, like “Why try?” or “What good will it do?”
  • Disconnecting from family and friends, spending time alone in their room
  • No expression of feelings, a kind of emotional deadness
  • Do most things just “not matter” to them anymore? Have they quit caring?
  • No expressions of plans for the future

If you see any of these signs—or a lot of them—pay attention. There is cause for real concern. It’s like your child is slowly disappearing into an empty world. You’re worried. What would you give to have a happy child back?

Fortunately, childhood depression can be solved.

What Causes Child Depression?

THIS is THE question. Until you can answer it, you will not be able to help your child. And almost no experts can answer it.

We cannot understand our children until we first realize that what we all need more than anything is to feel LOVED.

As proven by many studies, love is THE ingredient necessary for happiness, and without it we WILL be in pain. We feel small and helpless, and we HATE that. So do our children.

Our children are in pain because they don’t feel sufficiently loved BY US. Yes, I know you love your children as well as you can, but YOU were not given the KIND of love YOU needed as a child either, so you don’t have it to give.

LOVE is both the reason for our children’s pain and also the answer. But we must understand that NOT just any kind of love will do.

What we all need is UNCONDITIONAL love, or Real Love, which means to care about another person without any thought for something in return. There is no disappointment or irritation in Real Love.

You didn’t get that kind of love—with no disappointment or anger—so you don’t have it to give your children. How do I know?

Remember in your childhood how many times:

  • your parents or others rolled their eyes at your mistakes.
  • they criticized your performance, especially with a “tone.”
  • they told you they were disappointed in you—with their words, their facial expression.
  • you just needed to talk to someone, but there was no one there.

Each of these times we were not unconditionally loved—whether aggressively or by simple neglect—we FELT the message, “I don’t love you.”

Really. It was like being poked with a sharp stick. Our children have the same pain.

All of us—including our children—MUST be unconditionally loved and taught

  • How to find and maintain our feelings of worth
  • How to find our creativity and let it blossom
  • How to identify and be responsible for our feelings.

When children don’t feel unconditionally loved, they try ANY behavior that will earn our approval or protect them from feeling worthless. They try to please us, to earn praise. When that wears off, they try anything that temporarily numbs their pain or gets attention:

When everything fails to make them genuinely happy—not just entertained or briefly satisfied—they become emotionally exhausted and give up, which is one description of depression.

To be plain: the reason your child is depressed is that you simply were not loved unconditionally yourself, and now you don’t know how to give that lifegiving ingredient to them.

And yes, you’re doing your best, but your disappointment, irritation, or simple lack of involvement with your child—all of which happen much more often than you might think—are crushing to his or her sense of worth.

Do not feel guilty. It all began with the love you did not get yourself.

Take the first step right now. Say out loud these words: “My child is unhappy because of MY disappointment, irritation, or lack of involvement, which proves that I simply don’t know HOW to love my child unconditionally.”

Yes, ouch, but now we can talk about truly effective solutions.

Can Childhood Depression be Cured? Is There a Treatment for Childhood Depression?

Oh yes, there IS an answer. And I know that you’re looking for a cute list of steps to take. But there is no shortcut to learning to be a loving parent, which is easily one of the most difficult jobs on earth.

We must be TAUGHT how to parent, and in the Ridiculously Effective Parenting Training, you will learn how you can completely eliminate disappointment and anger from your life. And THEN you can learn how to unconditionally love and teach your children. THAT is the solution to preventing and treating depression. 

After thirty years of experience, I have learned that love WORKS, but learning to receive and give it requires vulnerability and focused effort on your part.

There are no easy or quick solutions, but THERE IS A SOLUTION.

I promise you that children who feel loved simply don’t get depressed. I know this. They acquire a real reason to live. They become happy and creative. Why? Because they have ENOUGH of what they need most—the love of a parent.

Your problems—and your child’s problems—were created over many years. How fortunate that solving these problems can happen much more quickly. Change takes focus and practice, but loving is certainly not more difficult than the way you and your child are living now.

As you learn to be loving, you will feel so much happier yourself.

You will enjoy the privilege of watching your child naturally and freely acquire the self-worth and confidence that eliminate depression.

You will experience the peace of a loving home, the confidence of being a loving parent, and the joy of raising children who are loving and responsible.

What could possibly be better?


Eliminate your child's depression and increase their self-worth.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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