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:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
- Music therapy
- Motivation enhancement therapy
- Pediatrics: Neuro-developmental assessment
- Behaviour modification
- Counselling parents to help them cope with the diagnosis
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