Mental Illness in Children
Yes, you have read it right. It may not be a bad behavior of children, but it can be a mental illness. Hence, spotting various signs of mental illness among children has become an essential task for parents. Though, mental health disorders are common and bulging/rising at a high rate in young children, a number of children are not getting the right help they need. For this, parents need to keep their eyes open and trace even the slightest of the mental illness symptoms and bring their children to the concerning doctors.
A recent study estimated that approximate 8 million children nationwide have at least one mental health disorder. The reasons for this inconsistency can be very extensive. It has also been surveyed that a lot of parents fail to recognize certain behaviors as a true symptom of mental illness. Even if the parents could recognize, they worry about their children being getting labeled with a mental diagnosis that will follow them through their childhood or adolescence. Also, financial concerns may arise regarding the treatment process. This fear among the parents prevents them from presenting the real issue to the child practitioners.
To analyze these issues parents should detect their symptoms or early signs.
Rectify the Issues at an Early Stage
Most Child psychologists like Dr. Nadine Macaluso, Ph.D. suggest that mental health concerns should be caught as early as possible. Parents should focus on tracking their children’s activities, identifying issues, working on them, before these issues become a disaster.
Signs of Mental Illness
Child psychologist says that there may be numerous signs among children that reflect mental illness:
- Mood Swings:
If your child’s sadness or withdrawal lasts for at least two weeks or he/she has severe mood swings affecting relationships at home or school, it is the right time to take a consultation.
- Facing difficulties in concentrating:
Look if your child is not able to concentrate or to sit still, both of which may lead to poor performance in school.
- Self-destructive behavior or Physical Harm:
Sometimes, unstable mental condition leads to self-harm. In this behavior, a child has a tendency of harming their own body, such as burning or cutting themselves. Children with a mental health condition also might commit suicide or can develop suicidal thoughts.
It also includes drastic changes in behavior or personality and dangerous or out-of-control behavior. Fighting repeatedly, that too using weapons, and wanting to badly hurt others are warning signs.
- Various Physical symptoms:
It subsumes frequent headaches, loss in appetite, stomach-aches, weight loss or gain, eating disorders, or more.
- Over-anxiety and over-fear:
Check for your child’s feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason. Be it sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing or worries or fears that would directly or indirectly interfere with the routine activities.
- Ignoring activities relating self-care
- Extreme use of any object or substance
- Difficulty in initiating or maintaining social relationships
Various Mental Health Conditions that may Affect Children
- ADHD (Attention-deficit/ Hyperactivity disorder):
Children dealing with this disorder face difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Few children may have symptoms in all of these categories, while others might have symptoms in just one.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness. It causes a child to lose touch with reality, in medical terms it is called as’ psychosis’. This illness usually appears often in the late 20’s among teenagers.
- ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder):
ASD is a serious developmental disorder appearing in the early childhood, usually before the age of 3. A child having ASD has always communication and interaction issues.
Read between the Severity and Duration
It becomes quiet complex for parents to decide that what they are seeing is the sign of a mental illness or the child is just behaving badly, as most of the children occasionally do. Hence, parents should have a keen look on the rigorousness and its duration.
If the child’s behavior is severe enough which would significantly impact, then it would be worth bringing it up to a child psychologist, or pediatricians.
– Ashwini Deshpande