Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.1 Scientists are discovering that changes in the body leading to mental illness may start much earlier, before any symptoms appear.
Through greater understanding of when and how fast specific areas of children’s brains develop, we are learning more about the early stages of a wide range of mental illnesses that appear later in life.
Much of the time we are so caught up in the middle of life that we fail to observe particular situations with clarity.
It is easily done, we become side tracked or we live in oblivion because combating each day is a battle alone. Some of us are so absorbed with our day to day existence that we fail to acknowledge what is occurring even within our own household.
An outsider looking in will notice when something is not quite right, so we need to pay attention to any suggestions or mere comments from a friend or outside family member. In particular, pay attention to the voice of children. Always always listen to children. Watch closely for any change in character also. A child may be suffering on the inside and project this through body language or irrational behavior as opposed to verbal expression
If you know someone or if you’re dealing with it yourself, just know that it is possible to live well. I’m living proof of that. Demi Lovato
Spend time with your kids; the valuable time you give will remain with them for a lifetime. Remember, a child’s upbringing is what shapes their existence. A child raised without love or affection will truly suffer emotionally later in life.
How are mental illnesses diagnosed in young children?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just like adults, children with mental illness are diagnosed after a doctor or mental health specialist carefully observes signs and symptoms. Some primary care physicians can diagnose your child themselves, but many will send you to a specialist who can diagnose and treat children.
Before diagnosing a mental illness, the doctor or specialist tries to rule out other possible causes for your child’s behavior. The doctor will:
- Take a history of any important medical problems
- Take a history of the problem – how long you have seen the problem – as well as a history of your child’s development
- Take a family history of mental disorders
- Ask if the child has experienced physical or psychological traumas, such as a natural disaster, or situations that may cause stress, such as a death in the family
- Consider reports from parents and other caretakers or teachers.
Very young children often cannot express their thoughts and feelings, so making a diagnosis can be challenging. The signs of a mental illness in a young child may be quite different from those in an older child or adult.
As parents and caregivers know, children are constantly changing and growing. So, diagnosis and treatment must be viewed with these changes in mind. While some problems are short-lived and don’t need treatment, others are ongoing and may be very serious. In either case, more information will help you understand treatment choices and manage the disorder or problem most effectively.
While diagnosing mental health problems in young children can be challenging, it is important. A diagnosis can be used to guide treatment and link your child’s care to research on children with similar problems. Learn more at NAMI.