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Warning Signs Of Common Mental Health Disorders In Kids

Ready to know the signs? Spot the symptoms of common mental problems among folks especially, in your children. Finding out what your child might have at an early phase, can make a huge difference.

Social-emotional development includes a child’s ability to understand himself or herself, to control and change his or her own emotions, and to form relationships with others.

Mental illness in children can be hard for parents to identify. As a result, many children who could benefit from treatment don’t get the help they need. Understand the warning signs of mental illness in children and the things you could do to help them cope with the situation. Children, for example, can develop the same mental health conditions as adults, but their symptoms may be different.

Long-lasting mood swings

A change in mood that lasts for two weeks can be a strong indicator of a serious mental disorder in your child. These mood swings, which usually range from being hyperactive to being melancholic within a short time span, with no substantial reason, can be an early sign of bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the “up” or mania children feel and the “down” or depression is so powerful that it can interfere with a child’s academic and social life. One-third of the 3.4 million children and teens who are diagnosed with depression may be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports.  Abrupt mood swings and hyperactivity accompanied by lethargy have the potential to produce a chronic irritability.

Socialization problems

Poor social skills can make kids feel sad, embarrassed and isolated. You and your child’s teacher can help him improve his social skills and connect with other kids.

How your child interacts with others is another important area to examine, especially if he or she shows one or more of the following:

  • Becomes physically or verbally abusive to others – including siblings, friends, strangers
  • Has few friends
  • Prefers to be alone
  • When he or she is with others, is difficult to get along with
  • In relationships with others, the child is highly critical or overly attached
  • Seems afraid and anxious around other people
  • Misreads or cannot read other people

Lack of self-care

A child with mental illness may:

  • Not take care for his or her appearance, lack of cleanliness
  • Eating problems – either overeats or doesn’t eat enough
  • Pays little or no attention to physical health
  • Doesn’t do homework, yard work, chores around the home as required
  • Doesn’t care about or pay attention to personal things

Eating disorders

Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder — are serious, life-threatening conditions. Children can become so preoccupied with food and weight that they start to lose focus on other, important things.

Problems at home

This is where it is either easiest to detect problems or more difficult because it’s hard to notice changes from day to day. Be concerned if your child displays more than one of the following on a regular basis:

  • Gets into fights or deliberately instigates fights or arguments with other family members, particularly siblings
  • Finds it difficult to keep up with assigned chores or duties around the home
  • Pays no attention to the needs of others
  • Feels overwhelmed by responsibilities or place in the family structure

Excessive fears or worries

Fears and worries in children are common throughout early childhood. It is normal for toddlers to fear the dark, imaginary creatures like “the boogie man,” and being separated from their legal guardians. For grade-school children, being anxious before school performance and worrying about social acceptance among peers are seen as healthy responses that continue into adulthood. However, when these normal aged-based fears become so excessive that they interfere with a child’s daily functions, it is time to have an intervention.

Perception problems

One of the aspects of mental illness is that the individual has difficulty with one or more of the following:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Processes information slowly
  • Acts confused
  • Problem-solving takes a great deal of effort
  • Inability to grasp abstract concepts
  • Perceptual difficulties – such as seeing unusually bright colors or hearing loud sounds, hearing voices, believing there are hidden messages in the TV, radio or other public forms of address, reacts to old situations as if they are completely new, etc.

While the presence of any of these signs occurs in children and adults at one time or another, they don’t necessarily indicate mental illness. It’s the aggregation and consistency of the signs that should be a cause for concern. In addition, signs of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety may overlap. In other words, they are not unique to each mental illness. Only a professional can diagnose mental illness.

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