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Mental Illness in Children

For children as much as adults, depression and anxiety can go hand in hand. Contrary to popular belief, symptoms of depression, anxiety or any mental distress can be visible in very young children, too.  For example, a recent study published by Center for Disease Control reported that mental illness existed for children between the age of 3 to 17 years.

Early Warning Triggers of Mental Illness

Caretakers and guardians of children can help identify the problem early on by searching for some common symptoms of mental disorders. However, they must be able to differentiate between routine fluctuations in the mood of a child, and actual emotional health issues. In order to gauge whether the child in question is a victim of a mental illness such as depression, signs to look out for include prolonged lows and irritability. Such signs, if identified in conjunction with lost interest in day to day activities, could be a sign that depression is on the horizon. Children who are the victim of emotional disorders may also demonstrate extreme mood swings, change in eating habits, self-esteem lows among other symptoms. In some extreme cases, there may be bouts of suicidal thoughts and even attempts. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America advises that if such symptoms last longer than 14 days and cause a hindrance to routine activities, then it is quite possible that the child in question may be suffering from a depression disorder.

Can Mental Illness Go Away On Its Own?

In most cases, mental disorders cannot go away on their own and need to be treated by a professional. Several options are available for parents to help their child manage mental illness, such as medications and behavioral therapy. However, most doctors recommend that prior to trying out common treatments of depression, parents must try and assess the root cause of the problem. This can be done through talking to the child and attempting to bring out the problem that is troubling them in the first place.

Best Course of Action

Family clinics are usually able to help with these types of health issues. A general practitioner can hold a session with the child and their parents in order to lay out the various options of treatment that are available. For example, depending on the type of disorder and intensity of the illness, the medical practitioner may recommend family therapy, counseling, cognitive therapy, and/or medication. Parents must also recognize that the cure to mental illness does not lie in medical treatments alone. It is also very helpful that the domestic environment is altered to allow the maximum comfort of the child. It should be a sort of comforting cocoon where the child may be able to vent or find support from close ones. This can help to speed up the process of recovery. Over a period of time, as symptoms of depression, anxiety or other emotional disorders change due to medical help, the parents can determine whether the treatment method needs to be altered accordingly. It is important to never let symptoms go untreated or to minimize their importance because of the child’s young age. Mental health is important in all age ranges.

Do you have a child that is displaying symptoms of mental illness? If so, at what age did you begin to notice? Please leave your comments below:

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