Mental Illness and Children
Both adults and children can have the same mental health issues. The difference is in the symptoms. Unfortunately identifying mental health issues in children is often difficult resulting in many children not receiving treatment. The best way to help your child is to understand mental health issues and their symptoms. Your mental health regulates the way you think, behave and cope with feelings.
A mental health issue or disorder is defined as changes in behavior, feelings, or thinking resulting in distress or disrupting your ability to function properly. When a child develops a mental health issue, there are usually delays in their social skills, behavior, thinking process and regulation of their emotions. These issues are so distressing, your child’s ability to function at social functions, in school and at home can be disrupted.
Understanding these types of disorders in your child can be extremely difficult since normal development requires change. The symptoms of the disorder are often different according to the age of your child. Your child may also not know how to explain the way they are feeling or why their behavior has changed. Even for adults, this can be difficult.
Unfortunately, even if some parents suspect their child is suffering from a mental illness, they do not look for treatment. This happens for a variety of reasons including logistics, cost and concerns regarding medications.
Common Mental Health Issues Among Children
The most commonly diagnosed issues among children by mental health professionals often include the following.
1) Anxiety Disorders
If your child has an anxiety disorder, they are consistently feeling afraid, anxious or worried. This can hinder them at school, while playing or acting appropriately for their age when in a social situation. The most common diagnosis is social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and generalized anxiety.
2) Bipolar Disorders and Depression
Mood disorders including depression result in loss of interest and persistent sadness. This will most likely disrupt the ability of your child to interact with friends and family and their ability to function correctly in school. If your child has bipolar disorder, you can expect extreme mood swings and unsafe, risky or unguarded behavioral and emotional highs and between bouts of depression.
3) Autism Spectrum Disorder
ASD or Autism spectrum disorder appears early in your child’s life as a neurological condition. This will generally happen before your child turns three. Despite the differences in severity on the Autism scale, your child will most likely experience difficulty interacting and communicating with others.
4) Hyperactivity and Attention-Deficit Disorders
If your child has either of these disorders, they will most likely demonstrate difficulties with impulsive behaviors, attention, hyperactivity or a combination of these issues in comparison to the majority of children the same age.
5) Eating Disorders
The definition of an eating disorder is becoming preoccupied with weight, weight loss or the ideal body type resulting in unsafe dieting and eating habits. Eating disorders often lead to social and emotional dysfunction and physical complications that can endanger the life of your child. This includes binge-eating, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.
6) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If your child has been exposed to traumatic events including injury, abuse or violence, they can develop PTSD. This is a mental health issue that can result in emotional distress, disruptive behaviors, distressing memories, anxiety and nightmares.
This issue can change your child’s perceptions causing psychosis or a loss of reality. Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed during the late teens to the 20s. The result is often delusions, hallucinations and disordered behaviors and thinking patterns.
Mental Health Warning Signs for Children
As a child psychologist Toowoomba, the most common warning signs we see showing your child may be experiencing a mental health issue include:
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social interactions
- Extreme irritability or outbursts
- Changes in dietary or eating habits
- Persistent sadness lasting a minimum of two weeks
- Out-of-control behavior often becoming harmful
- Sleep issues
- Sudden weight loss
- Missing or avoiding going to school
- Talking about hurting themselves or actually proceeding with the thought
- Frequent stomach aches, headaches or both
- Dramatic changes in personality, behavior or mood
- Academic performance begins to change or deteriorate
- Talking about suicide or death
- Difficulty with or inability to concentrate
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