They’re Not Just “Being Kids:” The Most Common Signs of Mental Illness in Children

signs of mental illness in children

Any parent has an innate desire to protect their children from the outside world. We are incredibly protective of our children’s general health and well-being.

Physical harm is easy to look out for, after all. Check for a bruise, a scratch, or a wound. Mental health issues are much harder to recognize and diagnose. Children go through many different phases growing up. That is why it’s so hard to decide if a problem is part of a phase or indicative of something much deeper.

But nearly one in five children will be diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder. And many suffer due to a lack of recognition from parents or authority figures.

What are the signs of mental illness in children? Read on and we’ll walk you through what to look out for.

The Difficulties of Spotting Mental Illness

You love your child and feel as if you should know them better than anyone. That’s why diagnosing mental illness can be so frustrating for many parents. It’s hard to admit that you may not know what is going on as a parent.

But that doesn’t change the responsibility that one has. Children are not developed enough to understand that what they’re experiencing may be the result of mental illness, so it’s up to a parent to identify the problem.

Red flags can be hard to distinguish since so many symptoms double as typical childhood behavior. A parent can’t be faulted for reasoning that almost every child shows certain symptoms at some point.

Concerns about stigmas associated with mental illness also prevent many parents from wanting to make the leap to such a conclusion. The logistical and financial costs of such treatment also tend to have parents leaning away from accepting such a fact.

But if a parent doesn’t properly identify mental illness in their child, that child will have to continue to suffer and grow with the problem.

Symptoms of Mental Illness In Children

What should you look out for if you believe your child might suffer from some form of mental illness? And what sorts of mental illness do children suffer from?

Symptoms to Look out for

The two biggest warning signs to look out for when it comes to mental health are mood swings and behavioral changes.

Severe mood swings that alter from happy to sad can be indicative of an emotional condition. Sadness or withdrawal that last for weeks without interruption can also be indicative of a mental condition.

Feelings of intense fear or dread without cause can also be cause for concern. It’s normal for kids to feel nervous about school or other such things, but repeated and overwhelming fear might be the result of a deeper problem. Keep an eye out for increased heart rate or heavy breathing as a result of this fear.

Intense changes in behavior, especially aggressive ones, can be a big red flag. If your child is frequently getting into fights, using weapons, or expressing a desire to hurt others, it can be the signs of a mental problem.

Other, less noticeable symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, weight loss, or reoccurring physical problems.

Trouble focusing on simple tasks can be indicative of certain mental health conditions, such as ADD. Unexplained weight loss could be the result of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Children with a mental health condition might also develop aches, sores, and headaches as opposed to more traditional sadness or anxiety. Common reoccurrence of such problems might be evidence of a problem.

Mental Illnesses That Effect Children

Children can develop almost any mental condition that affects adults. But many children will express or deal with such conditions differently.

Some of the more common mental illnesses in children include anxiety or attention-deficit disorders.

Anxiety disorders take many forms, ranging from obsessive-compulsive to generalized anxiety problems. Some form of anxiety can be normal in children, but those with anxiety disorders have trouble getting through their day-to-day tasks due to overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

ADHD is a disorder that prevents children from being able to focus or pay attention to certain tasks. It’s fairly common among children and teenagers.

Some children may also be diagnosed with autism. Autism is a serious mental disorder that begins to develop around age three. It affects a child’s ability to empathize and communicate with others. The severity of the disease may vary case by case.

Eating disorders can be life-threatening and also typically develop in a child’s teenage years.

Getting Help for Your Child

There is no simple way to evaluate and diagnose the mental health of a child. Your doctor will likely recommend you make multiple appointments with a specialist or child psychologist.

If diagnosed, there are various forms of treatment for children with mental health illnesses. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is one of the more common. It involves children coming to terms with their condition in a safe and supportive environment.

More specific forms of therapy may be applied depending on the specific condition at hand. For example, ABA therapy is often recommended for children with autism.

Medications might be prescribed for children with mental conditions as well. These are generally mood stabilizers intended to help children get through day-to-day tasks.

Signs of Mental Illness In Children

Understanding the signs of mental illness in children can help you properly look out for signs in your own child’s behavior. Early identification and aid can help those with mental illness properly transition into fulfilling lives.

Need more advice and tips for parents? Check out our blog for more.

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