Mental disorders in kids- a dangerous trend ignored
Recently, it has become worrisome at the level of violence among children, especially with the adolescent age bracket. Some weeks back, a video went viral of two teenage girls involved in a brawl at school, I guest somewhere in Ikorodu part of Lagos state, Nigeria, which led to the untimely death of one of them. The rate of suicides attempt by children has recently skyrocketed and speaks volumes. Researchers found out that teenage age bracket is the most volatile period in a child’s developmental phase. On this note, it becomes of utmost importance to look into some of this challenges with the aim of proferring solutions to them.
Children can experience a range of mental health conditions which includes
- Anxiety disorders.
- Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders(ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorder(ASD).
- Eating disorders.
All these are developed over time by children, though the signs could be visible but most times it becomes hard for parents to identify. This could basically be as a result of the parents inability to distinguish the signs and symptoms of a problem from the normal childhood behaviour.
I will like to do a detailed analysis of each category as stated above:
Anxiety disorders: this is a situation whereby a child becomes worrisome over issues which could lead to a stressful impact on him/ her. Examples of such disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorders, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorders and a host of others
Attention deficient/hyperactivity disorders(ADHD): this is a situation where a child pays less attention to issues around him/her and in the same vein, being overtly active as the case may be. Impulsive behaviour is also not ruled out. It is good to note here that some children with ADHD have symptoms in all of these three categories, while others might have symptoms in only one.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): this is a serious developmental disorder which comes up in the early years of a child, basically before age 3. It thereby affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others
Eating disorders: eating disorders such as anorexia, nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders. They may appear subtle but could be deadly in a child’s life if unchecked
This is because children become so preoccupied with food and weight that they focus less on other things around them.
Mood disorders: This involves depression and bipolar disorder which results into a situation where a child persistently feels sad or extreme mood swings not in consonance with the normal mood swings common in many people.
schizophrenia: This is a chronic mental illness which causes a child to lose touch with reality (psychosis). It is inherent in the late teens through the 20s.
There are basically some signs associated with a mental disorder which includes:
- Mood changes: observable feelings of sadness or withdrawal is a strong negative indicator. Parents should be on the lookout for such.
- Intense feeling: a feeling of overwhelming fears is a sign of this. Be vigilant.
- Behaviour changes: drastic changes in behavioural patterns like frequent fightings( using dangerous weapons) and a desire of hurt towards others are negative signs. Nip them in the bud now.
- Difficulty to concentrate: look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still. It is a sure bad indicator.
- Physical symptoms: be on the watch out for symptoms like headaches and stomach aches, it is sending a silent message.
- Substance abuse: this is a serious challenge for the society presently. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.
Way out for parents:
Be your child/ children best friend, communication here is key. Getting your child’s teacher involved is a welcome idea, his/her friends or loved ones could help out. Above all consult a doctor if need be
How to treat this disorders:
- Psychotherapy: this is talk therapy. Talk with a psychologist or mental health provider. It aids a child’s ability to learn how to respond to a challenging situation with health coping skills
- Medication: Medication like a stimulant, antidepressants or mood stabilizers can come in handy to treat his/her mental health condition. See your physician about this.
It is no longer news that before a child is diagnosed with mental health conditions, parents experience a feeling of anger, frustrations and helplessness. It is a common trend. Now, there is a way out of this feelings
- Seek advice from your child’s mental health provider on how to change your way of interacting with your child. Always learn to relax and have fun with your child
- Consider seeking family counselling or help of support groups too
- Always disclose to his/her teacher at school the mental condition of your child. It surely goes a long way for the stability of mind.
- Above all, speak out at the right time, seek advice and go all the way to seek for help.,
Dr. Kemi Abejide