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Signs Your Child May Be Struggling With Mental Health Issues

It's not all fun and games when you're a child. As children grow, they are constantly faced with new challenges and pressures from the outside world, as well as constantly changing bodies.

Kids may become moody or irritable after hitting puberty due to the hormonal changes associated with puberty.

For some kids, this moodiness or sadness is more than just a phase or poor attitude that will go away. However, there is a possibility that it is a sign of a mental illness in its early stages.

According to data from the CDC, children most commonly suffer from ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression.

Below are estimates of the number of children aged 3-17 who had ever been diagnosed in 2016-19.

  • ADHD 9.8% (approximately 6.0 million)

  • Anxiety 9.4% (approximately 5.8 million)

  • Behavior problems 8.9% (approximately 5.5 million)

  • Depression 4.4% (approximately 2.7 million)

Furthermore, in the 10-14 and 25-34 age groups, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

However, even if you know the red flags of mental illness, it can be hard to separate them from typical childhood behaviors. Additionally, kids lack the vocabulary and developmental skills to voice their concerns and emotions.

A child's mental health issues, however, must be identified and treated before they negatively affect their behavior, ability to learn, and emotional development.

In that respect, we're going to list some signs of mental health issues in young children and teenagers, as well as some steps you can take if you suspect your child is struggling with mental health issues.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Young Children

Often, babies, toddlers, and young children cannot communicate what they're feeling. In some cases, however, you might notice a change in their behavior or developmental abnormalities.

Among infants, toddlers, and young children, there are a number of signs of mental health issues:

  • Anxious behavior. You may see your child cling to a family member, not tolerate separation from them, be intimidated by new people, and be scared to leave home when he or she is anxious.

  • Irritability. Often, your child is irritable and fussy. Often, they cry and startle easily. Once they start crying, you might have difficulty pacifying them.

  • Aggressive behavior. Whenever your child is disobedient, frustrated, or aggressive, he or she will hit, kick, bite, or throw tantrums.

  • Developmental issues. Developmental milestones that your child should have reached for his or her age have not been met. It is also possible that they are regressing in terms of skills and developmental milestones, and they are no longer capable of performing tasks that they previously could.

  • Difficulty sleeping. There is a problem with your child falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or having nightmares that are severe.

  • Bedwetting. Even after potty training, your child wets the bed.

  • Gastrointestinal problems. You notice that your child has feeding issues, or has gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhea, or constipation.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Teenagers

In response to mental health conditions, adolescents and teenagers may react differently. In some cases, people think a teenager who is acting out is struggling through a typical teenage phase that eventually passes. However, there are times when these teenagers suffer from mental health issues.

Adolescents and teenagers may exhibit the following symptoms of mental health issues:

  • Overwhelming sadness, worry, or fear for more than two weeks.

  • Frequent irritability or anger.

  • Engaging in fights with school authorities, teachers, or other students.

  • Having extreme mood swings that fluctuate between euphoria and depression.

  • A moody, withdrawn personality. You may find that they no longer communicate with you and prefer to be alone. They may stop seeing their friends or communicating with them on social media, phone, or text.

  • A loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. They may love music, for example, but suddenly stop taking music classes or do not practice basketball.

  • An unwillingness to try new things or a fear of the common.

  • A lack of ability to deal with daily stresses and activities.

  • Having difficulty relating to others and expressing themselves.

  • Changing their appearance dramatically.

  • Weight loss or gain.

  • Neglecting their personal hygiene.

  • Inability to get a full night's sleep or sleeping all the time. Often, they feel tired or drained.

  • Having unexplained physical ailments such as headaches, stomach aches, or other complaints

  • Not being able to learn, think, remember, or concentrate

  • Inadequate academic performance.

  • Repeated use of drugs and alcohol.

  • Taking part in risky, unsafe behavior at home, at school, or in the community.

  • Discussing suicide or death.

What You Can Do to Get Help

Consult a professional if you notice any of these signs in your child, or if you have any other concerns.

Getting in touch with your child's doctor is a good first step. Your child's physician can help you locate someone who can conduct a psychological assessment if they believe your child could benefit from therapy.

Don't hesitate to take your child to an appointment, especially if they are asking to see a therapist.

You shouldn't ask too many questions about what they may be interested in talking about. When they seek the services of a therapist, it does not imply that they do not trust you enough to talk about their problems with you. It's actually a sign that they are confident that you will assist them when they need it.

In What Ways Can You Help Your Child Deal with Mental Illness?

In supporting your child's treatment plan, you will have an important role to play. In order to take care of yourself and your child, you should:

  • Become familiar with the illness.

  • All members of the family should be treated as equal partners as part of the treatment plan in family counseling.

  • For advice on handling difficult behavior and responding to your child, speak to your mental health professional.

  • Consider enrolling in parent training programs, especially those geared toward parents of mentally ill children.

  • Discover calm-response techniques that can help you manage stress.

  • Spend time with your child relaxing and having fun.

  • Give your child praise for the strengths and abilities he or she possesses.

  • Make sure your child's school has the support he or she needs.

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