Health One Family Medicine

5 Common Mental Health Disorders in Children

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately 20% of children in the United States suffer from diagnosable mental illnesses every year. Untreated mental health disorders in children can disrupt focus, lead to poor performance, cause behavioral issues and increase the chances of developing other mental illnesses.

The most common mental health disorders in children that need to be addressed by mental health professionals include:

1. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are very common in children. Children who have persistent fears or worries due to this disorder find it hard to participate in school, sports, and other typical age-appropriate social activities and situations. Two of the most common anxiety disorders are:

  • Social anxiety disorder: Feeling extreme fear in social settings.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Having unwanted, recurring thoughts, ideas or obsessions that drive you to do something repetitively.

2. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Compared with other children of the same age, children with ADHD experience inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. They engage in impulsive behaviors, lack focus, and seem in constant motion (runs or climbs) without reason.

3. Eating Disorders

If you think your child is preoccupied with a certain body type or experiences disordered thoughts about weight and weight loss, they might have an eating disorder. Dangerous eating and dieting habits are common symptoms of an eating disorder. The most common eating disorders in children include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. In addition to life-threatening physical conditions, these disorders can also result in social and emotional dysfunction.

4. Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It can hamper a child’s ability to focus in school and interact with others. Bipolar disorder is also one of the most common mental illnesses in children. It causes intense mood swings, including depression and other emotional or behavioral highs.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental disorder that causes anxiety, emotional distress, stressful memories and disruptive behaviors. The main cause of PTSD is exposure to trauma such as violence, abuse or injury. A child with PTSD constantly thinks scary thoughts and recalls memories of the traumatic event. They may also relive the trauma over and over again and nightmares.

Signs of Mental Health Disorders in Children

Some prominent signs of common mental illnesses in children include:

  • Persistent sadness for two weeks or more
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Outbursts
  • Extreme irritability
  • Out-of-control, harmful behavior
  • Drastic changes in behavior, mood or personality
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Frequent stomachaches
  • Frequent headaches
  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Poor academic performance
  • Avoiding school

What You Should Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Mental Disorder

If you are concerned about your child and suspect they have a mental health disorder, consult a Health One Family Medicine healthcare provider right away. You should also try to talk to your child’s teacher, close friends, relatives or other caregivers to see if they’ve noticed changes in your child’s behavior. Share this information with your child’s healthcare provider.

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