Children are in a state of rapid change and growth during their developmental years. Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders must be viewed with these changes in mind. While some problems are short-lived and don't need treatment, others are persistent and very serious, and parents should seek professional help for their children. Primary care providers should not be reluctant to make a referral to a specialist if there is concern or uncertainty about the child's mental health status.
Not long ago, it was thought that many brain disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder began only after childhood. We now know they can begin in early childhood. An estimated 6 to 9 million children and adolescents in the United States suffer from a serious behavioral or emotional disturbance. Perhaps the most studied, diagnosed, and treated childhood-onset mental disorder is attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but even with this disorder there is a need for further research, most especially in very young children.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), one of the anxiety disorders, is a potentially disabling condition that can persist throughout a person's life. The youngster who suffers from OCD CAN becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but extremely difficult to overcome. OCD occurs in a spectrum from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, can destroy a person's capacity to function at school, home, or in later adulthood, at work.
Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as in the case with other illnesses such as severity, and persistence. Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.
ODD, is a milder form, and sometimes a precursor to conduct disorder. In contrast to children with conduct disorder, the behavior of children with ODD does not involve serious violations of others' rights. It does, however, impair the child's family, academic and social functioning.
At least 2 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness. It is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The child's mood MAY swing from overly "high" and irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.
Isolated in worlds of their own, people with autism appear indifferent and remote and are unable to form emotional bonds with others. Although people with this baffling brain disorder can display a wide range of symptoms and disability, many are incapable of understanding other people's thoughts, feelings, and needs. Often, language and intelligence fail to develop fully, making communication and social relationships difficult. Many people with autism engage in repetitive activities, like rocking or banging their heads, or rigidly following familiar patterns in their everyday routines. Some are painfully sensitive to sound, touch, sight, or smell.
Imagine living in a fast-moving kaleidoscope, where sounds, images, and thoughts are constantly shifting. Feeling easily bored, yet helpless to keep your mind on tasks you need to complete. Distracted by unimportant sights and sounds, your mind drives you from one thought or activity to the next. Perhaps you are so wrapped up in a collage of thoughts and images that you don't notice when someone speaks to you.
Anxiety disorders are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual's quality of life.