Knowing when to seek treatment for your child

Knowing when to seek treatment for mental health disorders is important for parents and families. Many times, parents are the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors or environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious or sad. This may include, but is not limited to problems with relationships with friends or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness and responsiveness. It is also important to know that persons of different ages will exhibit different symptoms and behaviors. Familiarizing yourself with the common maladaptive behaviors of younger children and those of older, adolescent children will often help to identify any problems early, in their most treatable state. It is important for families who suspect a problem in one, or more, of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for mental health disorders is available.

What are the symptoms of a potential problem in the younger child?

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral or developmental problem in the younger child, which necessitates a psychiatric evaluation. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Significant decline in school performance or poor grades (even though the child studies and tries hard to succeed)
  • Withdrawal from activities, friends, family
  • Sleep disturbances (i.e., night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Continuous or frequent aggression or "acting out" (for periods longer than six months)
  • Continuous or frequent rebellion; opposition to authority and direction (for Periods longer than six months)
  • Refusal to attend school on a regular or frequent basis
  • Refusal to take part in school or family activities
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Excessive, regular temper tantrums (without explanation)
  • Thoughts or talk of suicide

The symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral or developmental problem may resemble other conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of a potential problem in the older child or adolescent?

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral or developmental problem in the older child or adolescent, which necessitates a psychiatric evaluation. However, each adolescent may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Significant decline in school performance or poor grades (even though the adolescent studies and tries hard to succeed)
  • Withdrawal from activities, friends, family
  • Substance (alcohol and drugs) abuse
  • Sleep disturbances (i.e., persistent night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • Depression (poor mood, negativity, mood swings)
  • Appetite changes (i.e., refusal to eat, excessive eating, food rituals, bingeing, purging)
  • Continuous or frequent aggression or "acting out" (for periods longer than six months)
  • Continuous or frequent rebellion; opposition to authority and direction (for periods longer than six months)
  • Continuous or frequent anger (for periods longer than six months)
  • Skipping school
  • Refusal to take part in school, family, sport or social activities
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Threats to self or others
  • Thoughts of death
  • Thoughts or talk of suicide
  • Running away or threatening to run away
  • Destructive behaviors (i.e., vandalism, criminal activity)
  • Sexually "acting out"
  • Lying or cheating
  • Many physical complaints

The symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral or developmental problem may resemble other conditions. Always consult your adolescent's physician for a diagnosis.