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Hopelessness and Depression

Feeling Hopeless About The Future May Be a Symptom of Depression


Updated October 17, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Hopelessness, or feeling hopeless about the future, is a common symptom of depression in children.

What Is Hopelessness?

Hopelessness occurs when a child feels that there is nothing that he or anyone else can do to bring about a desired outcome or avoid a negative one. It can discourage a child from seeking help or reaching out to friends and family, because he believes no one can help him.

Hopelessness is also a symptom reported frequently in children with suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Many children who feel hopeless have a hard time pushing negative thoughts away and seeing prospects for future happiness.

Why Do Some Feel So Hopeless?

It is thought that when some people experience a negative event, their disappointment or despair over that particular event may contribute to negative thinking about other aspects of their lives, which can lead to hopelessness and depression. Conversely, depression itself can also cause people to feel hopeless.

Depression Is Unique

Hopelessness is not a symptom of everyone's depression. Many factors contribute to a child's risk for depression, and not all children who experience short-term feelings of hopelessness will become depressed. In fact, some events, like the illness or death of a loved one, may produce temporary feelings of hopelessness. If these symptoms last more than a week, however, it is important to have your child evaluated by a professional.

If you think that your child has symptoms of hopelessness, may be depressed, or is having thoughts of harming* himself, it is important to consult with your child's pediatrician or other mental health provider. Treatment can help a child out of a depressive episode and provide him with hope and anticipation for his future.

*Suicidal thoughts and behaviors is an emergency. Seek urgent medical care either through your child's health care provider or an emergency room.


Depression and Suicide in Children and Adolescents. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Accessed: 01/11/2011. http://mentalhealth.about.com/library/sg/chapter3/blsec5.htm

John R.Z. Abela, Cristina Aydln, and Randy P. Auerbach. Operationalizing the "Vulnerability" and "Stress" Components of the Hopelessness Theory of Depression: A Multi-Wave Longitudinal Study. Behaviour Research and Therapy. November 2006. 44(11): 1565-1583.

Knowing The Warning Signs. American Association of Suicidology. Accessed: August 15, 2010. http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/warning-signs

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