Mental health issues don’t just affect adults. Children and teens can experience mental health problems, too. In the United States, nearly one in seven of them has a mental condition, and half go untreated.
Those who fail to receive an early diagnosis and the 50% who never receive treatment often struggle at home, at school and in forming friendships. Often, these kids develop problems that can last well into adulthood.
Mental health issues affect the way children think, learn, perceive and interact with the world around them. So knowing more about common mental health issues could help you get on your kids’ level and understand what makes them tick. Getting an early diagnosis is also important. Therefore, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following disorders and learn to recognize potential signs and symptoms.
1. Conduct Disorder
Children are moody and can often act aggressive, angry, or defiant around adults. However, if your little one develops an ongoing pattern of this kind of behavior, this might be a sign of conduct disorder. The mental health condition often causes kids to break serious rules and act maliciously. Sometimes, learning problems and other mental illnesses are the real culprits behind conduct disorder, so it’s important to speak with a physician for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or ADHD — is also common in children. Symptoms like constant fidgeting, excessive talking and chronic impulsivity and impatience often characterize this mental health issue. ADHD affects millions of kids and it follows many into adulthood. However, recognizing the warning signs early can help them find proper treatment. Look into behavior therapy, classroom interventions and parent training or consider prescription medication if your child is older. Both stimulants and non-stimulant drugs are available to treat ADHD in children as young as six.
3. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Perhaps your little one has persistent thoughts and frequent urges to act on them. For instance, they may consider a certain shirt or pair of shoes lucky and throw a tantrum if they can’t wear it every day. Others may repeat one word or phrase to make the thoughts or urges go away. Fighting off these obsessions and compulsions is tiring for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. That’s why it’s important to recognize these OCD symptoms in your kid so you both can learn coping strategies.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Any kid can experience stressful events that impact their mental health, regardless of how loving and safe your home is. Often, children recover from these events quickly. However, a few may struggle to move past the traumatic experience and develop long-term symptoms as a result. These may include intense, ongoing fears, hopelessness, irritability, and the tendency to startle easily. However, kids with PTSD may also exhibit the same symptoms as those with ADHD, so it’s important to seek a medical diagnosis.
5. Functional Alcoholism
It might seem strange to see functional alcoholism on a list of children’s mental health issues. Yet, many young people consume alcohol, with people ages 12 to 20 drinking 4% of all liquor consumed in the U.S. Those with functional alcoholism can hide their drinking problem, so you might not see the signs immediately. Talk to your teen about underage drinking and the long-lasting effects. Dual diagnosis treatment can help those with co-occurring mental health problems so consider these therapies when seeking treatment.
6. Anxiety and Depression
Nearly 50% of those with depression also suffer from anxiety and vice versa. Sadly, both disorders are quite common among both children and adults. They can make it difficult to function or even complete everyday tasks, so they affect kids differently. If you notice your little one is in a persistent sad, anxious or distant mood, express your concern and talk to their pediatrician. They can test for and diagnose the condition or refer you to a specialist.
7. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are becoming more common among younger children. The age of onset juvenile anorexia is also decreasing. In 1995, it mostly affected children between 16 and 19 years old. In 2010, the age bracket fell to mostly impact 12 to 15-year-olds. Because eating disorders are so closely interrelated with mental health disorders, many health professionals lump them into the same category or consider them co-occurring disorders. Regardless, you’ll likely have to seek treatment for both.
Knowing When to Get Help
Learning more about these and other mental health issues will help you recognize potential signs and symptoms in your kids. Of course, you should avoid diagnosing them yourself and pay a visit to the pediatrician or behavioral health provider instead. They can test for, diagnose and treat a wide variety of health issues.
The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner your little one can get help. Once you can put a name to their condition, you can work to understand your child better, communicate more effectively and create an environment in which they’ll thrive.