Answers to Questions About Your Child's Mental Health
Children can have mental health disorders that interfere with the way they think,
feel, and act. Some behavior problems can be seen as normal child development. And
some need professional help.
Children's mental health is as important as their physical health. Great care should
be taken to help a child who has a mental health problem. Mental, behavioral, or emotional
disorders can affect the child's future.
The following answers to questions parents often ask can help you protect your child's
How do I know if my child's problems are serious?
Problems deserve attention when they are severe, lasting, and affect daily activities.
Seek help if your child:
Is often sad, worried or fearful
Has striking changes in appetite or sleep needs
Is spending most of his or her time alone instead of with friends or family
Has decreasing grades or interest in school
Is hyperactive, impulsive, or has trouble concentrating
Is self-destructive or overly aggressive toward others
Whom should I go to for help?
First, have your child seen by a healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may
recommend that you take your child to a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker,
or behavioral therapist.
How are mental disorders diagnosed in young children?
Disorders are diagnosed by observing signs and symptoms. A skilled professional will
look at symptoms. These are based on the child's age and reports from parents and
other caretakers or teachers.
Which mental disorders are commonly seen in children and teens?
Anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders like panic or generalized anxiety are the most common mental
health problems in children and adolescents.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its symptoms include poor attention and concentration. Children with ADHD are
easily distracted and act on impulse.
Depression. It affects mood, energy, interests, sleep, appetite, and overall functioning.
Symptoms are extreme and lasting. They can greatly interfere with the ability
to function at home or at school.
Bipolar disorder. This illness causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. Periods
of disruption switch off with periods of withdrawal and other depressive symptoms.
How are children with mental health problems treated?
Sometimes, psychotherapies, behavioral strategies, and family support may be all a
child needs. In other cases, medicines are needed to help the child cope. If medicine
is prescribed, the child should be watched and evaluated regularly.
When untreated, mental health disorders can lead to school failure, drug abuse, violence,
and even suicide.
Most children who receive the right kind of help improve and go on to live full and
healthy lives as adults. Seeking help early is key to a positive result.