What parents need to know about children’s mental health and mental disorders
Paying attention to children’s mental health is as vital as taking care of their physical health. Children who have good mental health function better at home and at school, as they reach important developmental milestones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, defines children’s mental disorders “…as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day.” This definition doesn’t refer to the everyday fears and anxieties that children can experience. Instead, it refers to symptoms that are persistent enough to interfere with a child’s daily life and activities.
Symptoms that may indicate problems with children’s mental health
When children start behaving differently and the new behavior lasts for a few weeks, parents may want to consult our Plano pediatricians. In addition, behavior that distresses family members or causes problems at home or in school may need to be addressed. Unsafe behavior or talk of hurting themselves or others indicates a need for immediate help.
Here are some other clues that a child may be dealing with mental health issues.
- Persistent sadness
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- New worries, anxieties and fears that interfere with normal activities
- Temper tantrums or out-of-control behavior
- Drastic personality or behavioral changes
- Changes in eating habits, including loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, or vomiting
- Excessive exercise
- Self-harming behaviors such as cutting the skin
- Use of drugs or alcohol
Difficult life situations can also prompt changes in children’s behavior
Parents should watch their children’s behavior carefully after major traumas or difficult life events. In these situations, counseling may be required for children’s mental health.
- Losing a loved one
- Moving to a new home or school
- Parents separating or divorcing
- Incidents of bullying
- Natural disasters like fires, floods or other traumatic events
Diagnosing and treating children with mental health issues
According to the American Psychological Association, “…approximately one out of every five children in America has a diagnosable mental disorder.” Some of the most common disorders include anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and eating disorders.
Our Plano pediatricians are happy to discuss children’s mental health and help diagnose problems. They can treat these health issues or refer parents to therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists who can provide more extensive diagnosis and treatment.
Keeping children mentally healthy is a critical component in keeping them safe and well. Parents who have questions or concerns should contact us.