Most mental illnesses are diagnosed in adults and only a few are known to be prevalent among the young, but what we are unaware of is that there are almost five million children in the United States and 20% more are diagnosed yearly.
When talking about mental illness in children, this often involves not only mental difficulties but also emotional and physical as well. Children should be assessed according to their physical limitations, their emotional capacity according to their age, and how they cope mentally in school according to their performance. Let us learn the most common types of mental illness in children, their presentation, and how they can be treated.
Most Common Types of Mental Health Disorders
- Anxiety Disorders. Some anxiety disorders that present in children are obsessive-compulsive, antisocial personality and posttraumatic stress disorders. Children with these types of disorders do not function normally because of their constant worry, hesitations, and their anti-social behaviors. Their physical and mental functions are disrupted, making it difficult for them to perform their daily activities normally. “An anxious or angry child is in flight-or-fight mode with their body primed to handle a perceived threat.” Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC said.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of the most common disorders that can be seen in children, autism is in 1% to 2% of every thousand and affects boys more than girls. Autistic kids appear to be lonely, distanced, and have difficulty understanding and showing their emotions to other people. They can be easily dealt with sometimes but then they can suddenly get lost in ‘their world,’ feeling and hearing nothing but the things that only he can see in his mind.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Another common illness that also affects boys more than girls is ADHD. Children may present with one or all of these: impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inability to focus. When they are younger, they need to be monitored and be kept an eye on, as they do things hastily and without thought. Many adults also have ADHD. According to Ben Martin, Psy.D, “When people think about attention deficit disorder (ADHD), they usually consider it a childhood problem. However, a large proportion — between 30 and 70 percent — of children with the condition remain affected throughout adulthood.”
- Mood Disorders. You’ll distinguish children who have these because they are often irritated and angry, always grumpy, sad and frowning. Depression and bipolar disorder are included in this category. Their mood swings are erratic, as in they come anytime, and they do have outbursts.
- Eating Disorders. Bulimia and anorexia are on the rise all over the world, and they are prevalent in women between 12 and 25 years old. There have been many stories about adults suffering from eating disorders but only a few about children, and this, too, has to be taken seriously. Children and teens also turn to food when they are depressed or anxious.
- Schizophrenia. Described as a multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia appears between the late teens and the 20s.
It can be difficult to tell if your children are suffering from a mental illness or if they are just simply ‘being kids.’ But if you begin to notice some of these warning signs more than the usual, you need to see your child’s pediatrician or a specialist and discuss these signs with them.
- Difficulty coping with school and other daily activities
- Persistent negative and erratic moods
- Excessive eating or very poor appetite
- Very low energy
- Almost always angry, sad, or irritated
- Does not want to talk or play with friends
- Does not want to go out of the house, wants to be alone
- Substance abuse
- Have nightmares and hallucinations
Common Treatment Options
One of the most popular and effective treatment methods is psychotherapy, also called behavioral or talk therapy. This includes cognitive behavioral therapy, the treatment of choice for most mental disorders in children. It involves utilizing techniques that help the child get rid of his negative emotions and practice positive thinking. Essential coping strategies are also taught to children and parents as well.
“Today, more people are making psychotherapy a part of their self-care practice. In the same way they have personal trainers, they are investing in therapists — and that’s a good thing.” Robin D. Stone, LMHC said. Psychotherapy is most often combined with medications, as the two would make treatment more effective and the outcomes more positive. Stimulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics are the drugs of choice that are recommended by doctors.