New Delhi: Mental illnesses in children are serious and should be dealt with professionally. Children develop the same mental health conditions as adults, but their symptoms are vastly different, mainly because they do not even know what psychological changes are happening in their bodies.

Mostly, mental illnesses in children are hard for parents to identify, which many times makes it impossible for them to get the help they require.

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Experts say mental illness in children is different from adults as they battle a lot of physical, mental, and emotional changes as they progress through their natural growth and development. They also have issues in ways to cope with, adapt, and relate to others and the world around them.

“Those among the younger age group may not be able to understand or explain what they are feeling. Among teenagers, symptoms could be mistaken for laziness, misbehaviour, or the usual teenage angst,” said Ritika Aggarwal, consultant Psychologist, at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.

Common signs of mental health disorders among children are:

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A few of the signs to look for are:

Changes in sleep and appetite

Loss of weight

Intense fear of gaining weight

Having frequent, persistent nightmares

Significant changes in mood or behaviour


Decreased interest in activities they usually enjoy

Persistent feelings of sadness

Difficulty coping with everyday situations

Afraid or anxious most of the time

Refusal to go to school regularly

Noticeable disinterest or decline in academic performance

Frequent somatic complaints, such as headaches and stomach aches with no apparent medical cause

Frequent aggressive or non-compliant behaviour

Increased irritability and/or crying spells

Inability to get along with others

Avoiding social situations or preferring to spend time alone

Difficulty with attention, concentration, and organization

Hyperactive behaviour/constant movement beyond regular play/restlessness

Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property

Hurting oneself or threatening to hurt oneself

Talking about wanting to die or about suicide

Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there

Common mental health disorders

Common mental disorders that can affect children and adolescents are:

  • Anxiety: Children who suffer from anxiety react with nervousness, rapid heartbeat, and constant sweating
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD: Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating.
  • Eating disorders: These are common among children causing intense emotions leading to eating too much or too little.
  • Mood disorders: These involve feelings of sadness and/or rapidly changing moods, including depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Tic disorders: These cause a child to perform repeated, sudden, involuntary, and meaningless movements and sounds.

How to deal with disorders

Dr. Ritika opines that children should be helped and navigated to get over their issues without being made to realise there is something wrong with them.

“If you find yourself unable to handle the diagnosis or therapeutic process, educate yourself (along with your child) about the same – your counsellor or therapist will also help you with this,” she said.

A few ways to provide therapy to children include:

  1. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  2. Music therapy
  3. Motivation enhancement therapy
  4. Counselling
  5. Pediatrics: Neuro-developmental assessment
  6. Behaviour modification
  7. Counselling parents to help them cope with the diagnosis

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.

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