Just as mental health is important for adults, so are children.
It is not necessary that if your child is showing anger in certain situations, then they are throwing tantrums at you. It could also be a sign of Mental Health.
Many times, mental illnesses are health problems and are hard to identify in children and parents confuse them with behavioral changes.
As a result, many children are unable to get treatment as they could.
Mental health is the overall wellness of your brain, and it affects your thinking, regulates your feelings and behaviors.
A mental illness or mental health disorder is a pattern of changes in thinking, feeling, or behaving that can cause disruption to your child’s behavior and ability to function.
Mental health disorders are delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills, or regulation of emotions.
Moreover, these can be distressing to your child and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school, or in other social situations.
Mental health includes bipolar disorder, stress disorder, personality disorders, etc. These mental health problems can cause issues if you do not get treatment for your child.
Common Mental Health Illnesses in Children
Children can suffer from the following mental health conditions:
Anxiety Disorder: Children with this disorder respond to certain things with fear.
And dread as well as some physical signs of anxiety or nervousness such as rapid heartbeat and sweating.
Eating Disorders: This involves intense emotions and attitudes along with a display of unusual behavior that is related to weight or food.
Elimination Disorder: This disorder affects the behavior related to the elimination of body wastes including feces and urine.
Disruptive Behavior Disorder: Children with this disorder tend to defy rules are also disruptive in structured environments like a school.
Tic Disorders: This disorder can cause your child to perform certain actions repeatedly, suddenly or involuntarily,
Often meaningless movements and sounds as well, tics.
Schizophrenia: This one is a serious disorder and can cause hallucinations, distorted thoughts, and perceptions.
ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: With this disorder, your child will be hyperactive and will also have trouble controlling their impulses and paying attention.
ADHA is one of the most common mental health disorders in children.
Some of these illnesses like anxiety disorder, mood disorders also develop in adults.
However, conditions like behavior and developmental disorders begin in childhood and can continue to adulthood as well.
In rare cases, tic disorder can develop in adults as well. Moreover, it is not unusual for children to develop more than one disorder.
Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders in Children
The signs and symptoms of mental health disorders in children are often different.
They may also vary depending on the type of mental illness, however, some of the signs and symptoms are common.
These are changes in performance at school, drug abuse, inability to cope with daily routine problems, and sleeping disorders.
Moreover, they also include intense fear, gaining weight, frequent outbursts of anger, loss of interest in family and friends, anxiety, hyperactivity night terrors, or persistent nightmares.
Other signs and symptoms include long-lasting negative moods, defying authority, skipping school, aggressive behavior, temper tantrums, and hearing voices or seeing things, commonly termed hallucinations.
Causes of Mental Illnesses
The exact cause of mental health disorders or mental illnesses is not known however, certain factors play a crucial role in their development.
These factors are both biological and environmental and include heredity or genes, biology, psychological trauma, and environmental stresses.
Let’s discuss these causes as follows:
Heredity or Genetics: Certain mental illnesses tend to run in families.
This means that the chances of your child developing from a mental health disorder can come either from you or your partner or both.
Biology: Certain brain chemical neurotransmitters can cause mental disorders.
These help nerve cells in the brain to communicate with one another.
However, if these chemicals are out of balance or not functioning properly, they can cause disruption in brain functions.
Certain brain injuries or certain parts of the brain can also cause mental health disorders.
Psychological Trauma: Certain mental illnesses can be triggered due to a psychological trauma like:
- severe physical or emotional abuse
- an early loss such as the loss of a parent
- both emotional and physical neglect
Environmental Stresses: Traumatic events can also trigger a mental disorder.
Diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders
In most cases, doctors diagnose a mental disorder in children with the help of signs and symptoms they display.
However, many signs and symptoms like shyness, nervousness, strange eating habits, etc. can be also due to the normal development of your child.
It is important to note that when these behaviors become persistent, and lasts for a longer period of time, or cause significant disruption then they are a sign of a mental disorder.
Moreover, if the symptoms are present, your doctor will begin an evaluation with a complete physical and medical history.
Although there are no specific lab tests your doctor can order.
Some of these like an X-ray or Blood tests can help to rule out physical illnesses or medication side effects that could be causing these symptoms.
Meeting up With a Psychiatrist
If your doctor is unable to diagnose the signs and symptoms of a mental disorder in your child, they will refer you to a child psychiatrist or psychologist.
Mental health specialists are specifically trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses in children and teens.
These use specific questionnaires and assessment tools to evaluate a mental disorder in your child.
Thus, they will base their diagnosis on the reports of your child’s symptoms and their observation of the child’s attitude and behavior.
They will also rely on the reports from your child’s teachers and other adults as children have often trouble explaining their problems or understanding their symptoms.
Mental illnesses are like other medical conditions and need ongoing and long-term treatments.
Although medical science and medications are now advanced, however, they need to be properly administered in children.
Experts are still trying to find an appropriate treatment that works best for children.
However, for now, they are using the same treatment as adults.
The most common treatment options are
- Creative Therapies
Medications for Mental Health Disorder
The major type of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication for children is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs.
These medications affect the levels of serotonin in the brain and these are one the most prescribed medications because of their effectiveness and safety.
Many can be effectively treated with medications in combination with therapy.
The drugs to treat mental disorders in children include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, stimulants, mood-stabilizing drugs, and antipsychotics. Tardive dyskinesia is a side effect of taking antidepressants.
Thus, such conditions that affect your child should be treated.
The medications available for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD can have slightly different effects from individual to individual.
Psychotherapy for Mental Illnesses
It is a form of mental health counseling the works with a therapist to figure out different ways to solve your child’s issues and helps them to cope with emotional disorders.
It can also help produce positive biochemical changes in the brain.
Two major approaches to treat childhood mental illness, interpersonal psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
However, more intense therapy may be required for longer periods of time in case of severe illnesses.
Creative Therapies for Mental Illnesses
Creative therapies are art base therapies like music and dance to help treat your child’s emotional and mental health conditions.
These therapies use art forms like dance, drawing, or music to help certain conditions.
Moreover, these therapies do not require your child to have certain abilities.
It helps your child to channel their thoughts and emotions through artistic expressions.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, people can use creative therapy to:
- improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions
- improve self-esteem and self-awareness
- enhance social skills
- build emotional strength
- encourage insight into situations that are causing issues
- resolve conflict or distress
Preventing Mental Illnesses in Children
Attempts to prevent mental illnesses tend to address both biological and environmental factors.
It also uses an approach that is fit for the child’s age and development,
These often use cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapies as well as family-based prevention strategies.
Moreover, children of a mentally ill parent tend to be more resilient when the child is more able to focus on age-appropriate tasks in their lives and on their relationships.
For mentally ill parents, their children seem to be more protected from developing a psychiatric illness when the parent is able to demonstrate a commitment to parenting and to healthy relationships.
How can You Help?
You can help play an important role in supporting your child’s treatment plan by learning about the illness, considering family counseling.
Moreover, you can ask your child’s doctor how to respond to your child’s difficulties, manage their stressful conditions, and seek ways to make them calm and relax.
You can also enroll in parent training programs, work with your child’s school to make sure they are secure in the environment.
Mental health disorders are conditions that effect, physical health and can be stressful for both, you and your child and most often, people confuse them with regular behavior and attitude issues.
However, keep in mind, that if such behavior and attitude persists for a long-time, then you should seek medical attention for your child, so that can be timely diagnosed and work on a treatment plan that best suits their condition.