Just like adults, many kids — infants and toddlers included — are plagued with mental health problems. In fact, nearly one in five children has a mental illness, and for some of these youths, the disease interferes significantly with their daily lives.
But according to recent research from the American Psychological Association, young children are less likely to get mental health treatment than their grownup counterparts. Why? Too often, kids are expected to "grow out" of their emotional problems.
That means it's up to the parents not to ignore any instinctive sense that their child's emotional health is at risk. If you suspect any signs of mental illness such as ADHD or depression in children, it's important to seek help from an expert in kids' psychology.
What to Do When Something'sOff'
The signs of mental illness in children vary by age and type of illness, with some psychiatric disorders appearing even in preschool years. However, two warning signs tend to cross over into all categories and signal that you should consult with an emotional health professional experienced in kids' psychology:
Extremes or peculiarity of behavior for the age and gender of the child, such as being significantly more hyper, aggressive, or withdrawn
Sudden, hard-to-explain negative changes in behavior, such as a steep drop in grades
But many children have more than one mental illness — which makes getting a diagnosis even more challenging.
Know These Signs of Kids' Mental Illness
Here are some of the signs of mental illness during different age ranges.
Preschool/early elementary school years:
Behavior problems in preschool or daycare
Hyperactivity way beyond what the other kids are doing
Excessive fear, worrying or crying
Extreme disobedience or aggression. Because it's often within a child's nature to disobey or intrude on a playmate's space, an excessive degree of this behavior is what should concern you, says Dr. Klykylo, such as deliberate destructiveness or hurting peers or animals.
Lots of temper tantrums all the time
Persistent difficulty separating from a parent. Klykylo acknowledges that many children experience separation anxiety at first; there could be a problem if this goes on for months.
Grade school years:
Excessive fears and worries
A sudden decrease in school performance
Loss of interest in friends or favorite activities
Loss of appetite
Sudden changes in weight
Excessive worry about weight gain
Sudden changes in sleep habits
Visible prolonged sadness
Substance use or abuse
Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Tween and teen years:
The preceding signs of mental illness are still a concern, but the behaviors may be more pronounced as children get older. Look for:
Destructive behavior, such as damaging property or setting fires
Constantly threatening to run away or running away
Withdrawal from family and friends
Comments or writings that suggest a desire to harm himself or others
Once you seek help, your child will be evaluated. The Child Behavior Checklist, which contains more than 100 questions related to child behavior, may be used — or the kids' psychology expert you choose may refer to the DSM-IV with strict medical guidelines for diagnosing mental illnesses.
Join our telegram group for the latest updates and news