You tuck your little one in for the night and look at that angelic face, which, only a few hours ago, was covered with red, blue and yellow paint from a finger painting project. His days are filled with activity–running around the playground, picking out books about dinosaurs at the library and sneaking cookies out of the pantry. With so much energy, you can hardly keep up with him.
It seems hard to imagine, but that cherubic-faced toddler is now an adolescent, playing baseball with his friends and participating in the debate club. You blink your eyes, and he is already a young man heading off to his first school dance—and he traded his ripped-up jeans for a pair of pressed slacks and a tie. Then, all of a sudden, your energetic little boy is grown up and walking to the stage to accept his high school diploma. In another two months, he will be off to college. You are happy for him and the wonderful adventures that lie ahead, but the moment is bittersweet, especially when you think of all the nights you told him stories and kissed his forehead before he went off to dreamland.
As much as parents care for their children and make sure they provide the love and support they need, there are times when children and adolescents are faced with challenges in their lives. You may not be able to recognize if your child’s behavior is normal or if it is a sign that he is in distress.
Children and adolescents are busy with developing in a short amount of time. They go through five of the eight stages of development from birth to adolescence, so there always seems to be some type of change. You may not realize your child is experiencing a problem—young children may not know how to articulate what they are feeling. Many times, pre-teens don’t like to confide in their parents and keep their problems in. Adolescents go through so many emotional ups and downs that it is hard to tell if it is a normal part of the teen years or if there is something that is preventing them from enjoying life.
If your child talks to you about a problem that is causing him distress, or if you notice something bothering him—especially if it is stretching into weeks or months—it may be time to make an appointment with a therapist or a counselor. The therapists and counselors at Thriveworks in Pflugerville, TX Child and Adolescent Therapy/Counseling are professionals who have had years of experience dealing with the many issues that can affect children.
Common Mental Illnesses in Children
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, about 20 percent of American children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness during a given year. Nearly five million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness—one that interferes with their daily lives.
Most Common Mental Illnesses in Children
Children can suffer from the following mental illnesses.
- Anxiety disorders. Children with anxiety disorders respond to certain situations with fear and dread. They may show physical signs of anxiety or nervousness, such as rapid heartbeat and sweating.
- Disruptive behavior disorder. Children with these disorders defy rules and are often disruptive in school.
- Pervasive development disorders. This is when children are confused in their thinking and have issues with comprehending the world around them.
- Eating disorders. These involve extreme emotions and attitudes and sometimes unusual behaviors that deal with their weight and food.
- Elimination disorders. These disorders affect behavior related to the elimination of body wastes (feces and urine).
- Affective (mood) disorders. These disorders involve continuing feelings of sadness and/or quickly changing moods. Schizophrenia involves distorted perceptions and thoughts. Tic disorders cause a person to do repeated, involuntary and often meaningless movements and sounds called tics.
Some of these illnesses, such as anxiety, eating and mood disorders, as well as schizophrenia, can occur in adults as well as children. Others, such as behavior and developmental, elimination, learning and communication disorders, begin in childhood, but they can continue into adulthood. Children can have more than one disorder.
Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children
Children’s symptoms vary depending on the type of mental illness, but some symptoms to be aware of are:
- Changes in school performance, such as poor grades in spite of good efforts.
- Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits.
- Excessive complaining about physical ailments.
- Defying authority, skipping school, destruction of property or stealing.
- Great fear of gaining weight.
- Long-lasting negative moods that are often accompanied by poor appetite and thoughts of death.
- Frequent outbursts of anger.
- Loss of interest in friends, peers and things they usually enjoy.
- Great amount of time spent alone.
- Excessive worrying or anxiety.
- Persistent nightmares or night terrors.
- Continuing disobedience or aggressive behavior.
- Frequent temper tantrums.
- Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
Portrait of Teen Self-Injury
A recent study shows that teen self-injury, such as cutting, may be more common that previously thought. The findings show that parents, teachers and the community must be aware of these behaviors and how to help teens manage stress without harming themselves.
Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, PhD, of Brown University’s Medical School and The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, and her colleagues tracked self-injury among 663 students from five U.S. high schools. The students responded to the researchers’ anonymous survey about coping with difficult social and emotional problems. The survey focused on various types of deliberate, but not suicidal, self-injury, including cutting or burning the skin, as well as biting or hitting themselves. The students were nearly 16 years old on average and had engaged in self-harm within the past year.
Nearly 50 percent of the students reported some form of self-injury within the previous year, which is higher than the estimated four percent of the population with a history of self-injury, according to past research cited by Lloyd-Richardson and her colleagues.
The most common types of self-injury were biting, cutting, hitting and burning skin. Sixty percent of self-injurers noted moderate to severe self-injury.
The researchers found that the most common reasons teens engaged in self-injury were to try to get a reaction from someone, to gain control of a situation and to stop their bad and negative feelings.
The researchers stressed that interventions to stop teen self-injury should promote other ways of coping with their problems, handling stress and communicating with others.
Thriveworks in Pflugerville, TX for Your Child or Adolescent
The therapists and counselors at Thriveworks in Pflugerville, TX have professional licenses and credentials and are the able to work with children and adolescents on numerous issues, including self-injury, neglect, learning disabilities and mood disorders. They ensure that children and adolescents feel safe and secure in the surroundings in order to be able to discuss issues that are preventing them from fully enjoying friendships, school, extracurricular activities and hobbies in their lives. Therapists use traditional talk therapy, behavior modification techniques, play and family therapy, as well as teach coping methods and treat underlying medical issues.
Call Thriveworks in Pflugerville, TX at (512) 955-3074 for child and adolescent therapy and counseling, where you won’t be placed on a waiting list. Appointments are available in 24 hours for most new clients.