Identifying mental illness in children is a very daunting, but a necessary task. Many a times, any change in a child’s behavior is considered normal or a passing phase, which, in most cases, is expected to go away on its own. But, it must be kept in mind that behavioral changes could be the initial sign of any mental disorder that the child might be suffering from. In many cases, hyperactivity or lethargy in children can indicate a hidden mental issue that needs immediate treatment.
However, the good news is that such mental disorders can be controlled, provided an early diagnosis is made and the treatment is started at the earliest. Therapy and medications can control such mental ailments to a great extent, however, the first and foremost requirement is to ascertain whether the child has a disorder and to what extent.
Here are some most common symptoms and warning signs of a probable mental illness in a child:
Mood swings: If a child suffers from mood swings that last for two weeks or more, he or she might have a serious mental disorder. The child may also experience mania or depression which can disrupt his or her life. Parents should consider taking the child to the doctor if he or she becomes hyperactive, and then lethargic, suddenly, without any reason. Also, long-lasting mood swings should be considered serious conditions that require proper medication and therapy.
Symptoms of anxiety, fears or phobias: It is natural for children to fear the dark or be scared of imaginary creatures, such as ghosts, but when these fears become excessive, they may hamper the child’s daily life and should be addressed as soon as possible. Similarly, it is very normal for a child to be anxious before exams but this fear should not become a paranoia. If a fear or phobia grows out of proportion, it should be dealt with properly.
Behavioral changes: Childhood rebellion is a normal behavioral trait in children during the growing phase, but when a child remains agitated or angry most of the times, it should be considered as abnormal and must be treated accordingly. Other changes in behavior could be buying unnecessary games or toys without any real interest to use them. Even little changes like going on shopping sprees unnecessarily could also imply that the child needs help.
Concentration problems: Children suffering from a mental disorder have difficulty in concentrating on any particular task. Their attention span is too small, and therefore, they often have difficulty watching television or playing games. If the child shows symptoms such as lack of concentration and lost focus, he or she should definitely get help.
Sudden weight gain or weight loss: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that an estimated 80 percent of people with serious mental illnesses are overweight or obese. Sudden weight gain or weight loss can mean the child has a disorder and should be dealt with accordingly. Also, a lack of appetite and a subsequent weight loss can be signs of depression. Thus, any difference in a child’s eating habits should be noted and treated as early as possible.
Road to recovery
Children can experience a number of mental health conditions, such as, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, or mood disorders. Since it is difficult to identify the problems in children, even a minor change in behavior should be dealt with cautiously.
If your child is showing such symptoms which are beyond normal, seek help from the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline right away. You can dial our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 and our experts will help you in connecting to one of the best mental health rehabilitation centers in your vicinity. You may also chat online with our counselors for more information about the mental health programs that can help your child live a better life sans the mental disorders.