Los Angeles Christian Counseling
We dread the school report that Little Johnny has done something to either aggravate or offend a teacher or classmate. But what if Little Johnny’s behavior is more than a kid just being a kid? Mental disorders affect a child’s home life, school environment, and personal relationships. Not only that, but mental disorders in children can stick around well into adulthood and lead to severe problems without proper treatment.
Most Common Mental Disorders in ChildrenAccording to a National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report, one child out of every five children in the United States will experience some form of a mental health disorder. Would you recognize the symptoms of the most common mental disorders in children?
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are very closely related. Typically, physicians differentiate the two whether the child is hyperactive or not. The child may behave with no control in any area of his life – meaning your child will behave the same way at home as he does at school and church.
In both disorders, the child shows a lack of attention and possibly behavioral and cognitive symptoms: aggressiveness, impulsive behaviors, mood swings, anger, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and an inability to focus on tasks. A child with ADD or ADHD may appear rude, interrupt people, or lash out at loved ones.
Although many physicians prescribe medication, therapy is a beneficial tool you can add to your child’s mental health care plan. Your child’s therapist may recommend talk therapy, family therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help your child identify the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that cause them to react.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) not only manifests in military veterans as a common diagnosis for those who served during wartime but also in children. Children who have experienced a loved one’s death, trauma, abandonment, or neglect can show PTSD symptoms.
Some of the common PTSD symptoms include:
- reliving the memory either through intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or reenactment during play
- demonstrating extreme anger or lashing out at others
- displaying a lack of emotion or becoming “numb” to the situation
- avoiding people and places that remind the child of the event
- jumping when the child hears a noise or another trigger that startles them
A therapist works with a child suffering from PTSD to pinpoint his fear and create coping mechanisms such as meditation and breathing exercises. Talk therapy allows the child to share his story without judgment in a safe environment.
Anger issues in children can exist independently or concurrently with other mental health disorders, such as ADHD, ADD, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. This display of anger goes beyond the normal anger we see during an argument – this anger stems from rage. At times, this rage drives the child to react violently.
Issues underlying anger include physical ailments like stomachaches and headaches, grinding teeth, tantrums after the appropriate age, hitting others, harming themselves, or emotional symptoms such as moodiness, feelings of being out of control, or guilt and shame for hurting someone.
Anger management and therapy are available for children with anger issues. Your child will learn how to take a step back and evaluate his thoughts and emotions before engaging in a behavior. Learning to control oneself is a vital skill your child will need for the rest of his life in every area.
Although mostly diagnosed during the teen and young adult years, bipolar disorder can develop in children. With bipolar disorder, children’s emotions can swing high with great excitement and euphoria for a period of time and then crash into a severe depression.
The child will maintain whatever emotion he feels whether the circumstance is appropriate or not. For example, during a highly manic state, he may feel giddy during a funeral or burst into tears at a baby shower.Common bipolar disorder symptoms include unusual and inappropriate behavior, extreme mood swings, difficulty sleeping, high-risk behaviors like theft or sex with different partners, and an unrealistic view of self.
Talk therapy, prescription medication, and family therapy are typical treatments for bipolar disorder in children. Your child’s therapist and pediatrician may also work with others in your child’s school for the best well-rounded care and management of bipolar symptoms.
Anxiety and Depression
All children go through small bouts of anxiety and depression as a part of growing up. However, extreme fear or severe depression can last weeks, months, or in some cases, years, and does not lift after the trigger resolves.
Children with anxiety may develop different forms such as general anxiety, social anxiety, separation anxiety, or phobias. Irrational fears may keep a child from wanting to leave the house or from trying anything new.
Depression in children affects their sleep, diet, and personal relationships. A child with depression may lose interest in favorite hobbies and games and seem distant to family members and friends. The child might also engage in harmful behaviors either toward himself or others.
Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders in children and are treatable with CBT, talk therapy, and (sometimes) prescription medication.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) affects more than 200,000 children in the United States each year. Children with ODD symptoms have problems submitting to authority figures, including parents, grandparents, and teachers. If the disorder persists into adulthood, problems may develop at work and with law enforcement.
Symptoms of ODD include tantrums and screaming, blaming, vengefulness, rage, and irritability. The child may engage in self-harming behaviors or develop depression. Usually, these symptoms appear before the age of eight and require a diagnosis from a professional.
Talk therapy, CBT, anger management, and group therapy work well for children displaying ODD behaviors. The therapist may recommend family therapy and parent sessions to help with communication. Since Oppositional Defiant Disorder can create havoc within the home, the family will learn how to help the child best while maintaining a safe environment for the rest of the household.
Night terrors are a sleep disorder affecting close to 40% of children. These night terrors, also known as sleep terrors, are unlike nightmares. Nightmares happen during the REM sleep cycle, and the child can sometimes remember the images. Night terrors occur during deep sleep, and the child has no memory of it.
When a night terror occurs, the child may sit up in bed, screaming, with their eyes wide open in fear. However, the child is not awake at all. After some stressful minutes of trying to calm the child down, he will fall back to sleep. Although night terrors can be due to things like head injury, insomnia, or a fever, many times separation anxiety, emotional distress, or trauma can trigger them.
For night terrors, consider consulting a sleep specialist and a therapist to get to the root of the sleep disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in conjunction with play therapy, focusing on coping with stress and night terrors, appears to have a beneficial effect on children’s sleep and behavior.
Christian Counseling for Children
Getting the proper help for your child is critical if you suspect a mental disorder. Consider meeting with a faith-based therapist for a consultation. You have nothing to lose by getting a professional opinion from someone who wants to see your child succeed in managing his condition while relying on God’s grace and strength.
A therapist will provide techniques to manage and prevent the troubling behaviors seen in children with ADHD, ODD, and Bipolar Disorder by instructing parents and other family members on how they can help them. The child learns how to identify an emotion and thought, reframe his perspective on the thought, and change the resulting behavior.
The therapist will dive into the root cause of your child’s anger issues, depression, or night terrors, and will work with your child to learn new coping mechanisms. With God, all things are possible, and your child can learn to succeed in school, at home, and in life.
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