Children’s Mental Health Issues
Children can have mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that are real, painful, and costly. These problems, often called “disorders,” are sources of stress for children and their families, schools, and communities. Some disorders are more common than others, and conditions range from mild to severe. The number of young people and their families who are affected by mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders is significant. It is estimated that as many as one in five children may have a mental health disorder that can be identified and require treatment. Mental health disorders in children are caused by biology, environment, or a combination of the two. Examples of biological factors are genetics, chemical imbalances in the body, and damage to the central nervous system, such as a head injury. Many environmental factors also can affect mental health, including exposure to violence, extreme stress, and the loss of an important person.
Children who experience excessive fear, worry, or uneasiness may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are among the most common of childhood disorders Anxiety disorders include: Phobias, which are unrealistic and overwhelming fears of objects or situations; Generalized anxiety disorder, which causes children to demonstrate a pattern of excessive, unrealistic worry that cannot be attributed to any recent experience; or Panic disorder, which causes terrifying “panic attacks” that include physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat and dizziness. Other anxiety disorders can include; Seperation anxiety, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD.
Many people once believed that depression did not occur in childhood. Today, experts agree that depression can occur at any age. The disorder is marked by emotions o feelings of sadness, or worthlessness. Children may lose interest in play activities, or schoolwork declines. Children may experience changes in appetite or sleeping patterns and may have vague physical complaints. They may feel they cannot do anything right, or that the world or life is hopeless.
Young people with conduct disorder usually have little concern for others and repeatedly violate the basic rights of others and the rules of society. Conduct disorder causes children to act out their feelings or impulses in destructive ways. The offenses these children commit often grow more serious over time. Such offenses may include lying, theft, aggression, truancy, the setting of fires, and vandalism.
Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are unable to focus their attention and are often impulsive and easily distracted. Most children with this disorder have great difficulty remaining still, taking turns, and keeping quiet. Symptoms must be evident in at least two settings, such as home and school, in order for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to be diagnosed.
Most of the symptoms and distress associated with childhood mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders can be alleviated with timely and appropriate treatment and supports. If you are concerned about a child’s mental health you are encouraged to utilize the “Juneau Mental Health Directory for services and support.
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