A parent’s life is filled with worry, anxiety, and fear for their child’s physical and emotional well-being. Whether a self-described free-range parent or one where the rotor blades of a helicopter can always be heard turning, every parent questions what is ‘normal’ from time to time.
Mental health disorders can disrupt how your child functions at school, at home, and in all social situations, so it is well worth knowing the warning signs regarding mental health and kids.
Is your typically upbeat child now sullen and moody? Perhaps you have noticed dramatic and rapid shifts from joy to depression in a single day. While mood swings can be expected, particularly in teens, any ongoing, odd, or uncharacteristic behavior is worth checking out.
Pulling away from activities
A noticeable apathy for activities that your child once relished can be a sign that there is a deeper issue. A day or two of not wanting to get up early for swim practice or the inability to concentrate on beloved art projects might not be a need for concern; however, if the distancing from peers and disinterest in hobbies persists, then it is worth taking seriously.
Like adults, some children prefer their own company or need downtime away from crowds. However, if your once social butterfly now doesn’t want to play with friends or even leave the house, this could be a warning sign that something else is going on.
Lack of communication
Does your child seem guarded? Have they stopped communicating with you about specific people, activities, or school? An inability to communicate effectively or avoiding a topic completely can be a sign of a deeper issue or a mental illness.
Picking fights with those closest to them is a definite warning sign of a deeper issue. In addition, children might be struggling with anger and other emotions that they are unsure of how to direct appropriately.
A noticeable increase in nervousness, suspicion, anxiety and fears can be a red flag for a more profound mental illness. This goes beyond a general fear of new situations and instead when everyday activities create anxiety that seems irrational.
Sleep deprivation in a child can quickly lead to a lack of cognitive functioning and mood swings. Studies have shown that healthy adolescents show mood deficits of depression, anger, anxiety, and confusion with a lack of sleep. If your child cannot get the recommended nine to twelve hours of sleep nightly, it is worth speaking to your pediatrician.
A noticeable loss of appetite, weight loss, weight gain, or increased obsession with food, in general, can be early signs of an eating disorder.
What are common mental health or developmental disorders in children?
A mental health professional can better address and identify any concerns you may have for your child’s mental health and prescribe medication for depression if required. Mental health disorders in children can include some of the following in isolation or combined:
- Bipolar disorder
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you find your child exhibiting destructive behavior or showing signs of substance abuse or self-harm, it is integral to take this seriously. Mental health helplines are available worldwide for those in crisis.