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Feeling Worthless May Be a Sign of Depression in Children


Updated October 17, 2012

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

Worthlessness, or feeling worthless, is a common and painful symptom of depression. It describes when people think they are weak, inadequate, or flawed.

Why Does a Child Ever Feel Worthless?

No child is worthless, but some may experience temporary feelings of worthlessness at times, especially after a disappointment. This is a normal reaction if these feelings resolve within a few days.

However, children with depressive disorders may feel worthless frequently or for long periods of time, especially following a negative event.

Feelings of worthlessness are thought to foster other negative feelings, like hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, and guilt. Worthlessness is a painful emotion and can cause a child to withdraw and keep to himself.

A child who feels worthless, for example, may believe that he is inherently bad, and that everything he does is wrong. He may not put any effort into his school work, engage in unstable relationships, or not even try to connect with others at all because he believes that his efforts will fail or cause additional problems.

Worthlessness and Depression

Not all children with depression will feel worthless, and not everyone who feels worthless will experience depression. However, feelings of worthlessness, or other symptoms of depression for more than a week, may require treatment from your child's pediatrician or mental health provider.

If you are concerned about any of your child's feelings or behaviors, it is best to talk to a medical or mental health professional for advice. After all, when it comes to your child, you want to ensure that he is happy and healthy.


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

S.B. Williams, E.A. O'Connor, Eder, M. Whitlock, E.P. "Screening for Child and Adolescent Depression in Primary Care Settings: A Systematic Evidence Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force." Pediatrics 4 Apr 09 123(4):e716-e735.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression? The National Institute on Mental Health. Accessed: January 14, 2011. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/what-are-the-signs-and-symptoms-of-depression.shtml

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