Overview of Pediatric Mental Illness:
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. They are not a sign of personal weakness.
Ten percent of children and adolescents in a given year suffer from diagnosable, serious emotional and mental disorders that significantly interfere with their day-to-day lives, according to the US Surgeon General.
Research by the Institute of Medicine shows that half of adults with mental illnesses experience onset of that illness before age 14.
Mental illnesses are treatable.
Types of Pediatric Mental Illnesses:
Depression: Depression in children often manifests in sadness, lethargy, oversleeping, weight change or troubles at school. More serious effects of depression include thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior, as well as aggression and threats toward others. Depression is a harder mental illness to recognize in children than anxiety or bipolar disorder because the signs and symptoms may be more subtle, or may be mistaken for responses to situational circumstances or changes. More information can be found on our Pediatric Depression Resource page.
Anxiety Disorders: Pediatric anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. They can cause impairment in school, social and family situations. Other disorders related to anxiety include Selective Mutism, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and Attachment Disorder. There are various types of pediatric anxiety disorders, outlined on our Pediatric Anxiety Resource page.
Bipolar Disorder: One in 100 children were diagnosed as being on the Bipolar Spectrum in 2003. Signs and symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder will include both mania and depression, cycling at slow or rapid intervals. More information can be found on our Pediatric Bipolar Disorder Resource page.
Mental Retardation: This disorder is evidenced by significant sub-average intellectual functioning. It is often diagnosed in early childhood, where communication, self-care, and social or interpersonal skills are lacking. Mental Retardation can be mild, moderate, or severe. Other disorders included in this category include Rhett's Disorder.
Learning Disorders: Learning Disorders are one of the most common disorders to affect children. Deficits may occur in reading, math, language, communication, writing, coordination, and expression. Various disorders affect approximately one to six percent of children in the United States, depending on the disorder. More information about Learning Disorders can be found on our Learning Disorder Resource Page.
Autism: Autism is a disorder where there is a profoundly abnormal impairment of development in social interaction, communication, and activity. It impacts approximately five in 10,000 children. Other disorders included in the category of Autism include Childhood Disintegration Disorder and Asperger's Disorder.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder is identified by inattention issues in failing to pay attention to details, making careless mistakes, difficulty with sustained activity, and organizational issues; as well as by hyperactivity, including impulse control issues, being fidgety, excessive activity, and excessive talking. ADHD can be defined by hyperactivity, attention issues, or both.
Conduct Disorder: Conduct disorder is best identified by a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which age-appropriate societal norms are violated. This includes threatening or causing harm to others, threatening or causing damage to property, deceitfulness and theft, as well as violations of rules. This disorder can onset in childhood or adolescence. This disorder is often recognized before the age of eight, in approximately two to sixteen percent of the population.
Diagnosis of Pediatric Mental Health Disorders:
While it may be difficult to face, mental health is important and early diagnosis is often the best approach to successful treatment. Many resources are available to families regarding mental health in children. If you have questions or concerns about your child's behavior, health, or symptoms, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to further discuss the situation.
Additional Pediatric Mental Health Resources:
National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health: Provides resources, support, and services to children, youth, and their families. The Federation uses a family and youth-driven approach to help ensure that children grow up healthy and able to maximize their potential.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Child and Adolescent - NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Their Child and Adolescent Action Center provides informational resources as well as discussion groups for teens and parents/caregivers.
About Our Children - Parent-friendly website of the NYU Child Study Center that includes a wide range of information on child mental health disorders and associated parenting issues. Includes many resources for children and parents.
Child and Adolescent Bipolar Disorder Foundation - A community and resource site for parents and families who have been diagnosed with childhood and adolescent bipolar disorder.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network - The National Child Traumatic Stress Network exists to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities throughout the United States.
SchoolMentalHealth.org - Offers mental health resources not only for clinicians, but also for educators, administrators, parents/caregivers, families, and students.
Cope. Care. Deal. - A mental health site for teens. The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands created its Adolescent Mental Health Initiative to synthesize and disseminate scientific research on the prevention and treatment of mental disorders in adolescents.