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Like adults, children can be affected by depression, anxiety and other types of mental illness. According to data from the Child Mind Institute, one in five school-age children has a mental illness or learning disability, so parents should understand the signs and symptoms of the most common mental illnesses that impact children. Although these conditions can be serious, they are also treatable.
According to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 20 percent of adolescents (ages 13 to 18) have a mental health condition. Eleven percent of those in this group have a mood disorder, 10 percent have a behavior disorder and eight percent have an anxiety disorder. NAMI notes that 50 percent of adults who have mental illness noticed symptoms by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24.
The most prevalent forms of mental illness in U.S. children and adolescents include:
In most cases, doctors aren’t sure what causes childhood mental illness. Several factors are thought to play a role, including environmental stressors, trauma history, family history and biology. Children whose parents or other relatives have a mental illness are more likely to be affected themselves.
Although each type of mental illness has distinctive diagnostic criteria, some signs and symptoms can alert parents about emotional issues that need attention. These include but are not limited to:
Pediatric and adolescent care for mental health issues varies depending on the exact diagnosis, but it often relies on a combination of therapy and medication. Psychotherapy, for example, provides kids a chance to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe space. They learn techniques for coping with difficult emotions and managing stress and anxiety. Family counseling can help guide parental support and strengthen these critical relationships.
A provider may suggest medication if therapy alone is ineffective or when symptoms are especially severe. Some of the most common prescriptions approved to treat childhood mental health disorders include anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers or stimulants for ADHD.
Parents who are concerned about their child’s mental health and have noticed the signs described above should talk with their doctor. He or she will evaluate your child’s behavior and medical history to determine the cause of the troubling symptoms. In some cases, referral to a specialist may be recommended.
“ADHD.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“2016 Children’s Mental Health Report.” Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/report/2016-childrens-mental-health-report/
“Mental Illness in Children: Know the Signs.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577
“Mental Health Facts: Children and Teens.” National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“Mental Illness in Children.” WebMD.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.