There are numerous psychological problems that children and adolescents may experience. These children, and their families, significantly benefit from seeking treatment from a mental health professional. Treatment comes in various forms; it is important for parents to know that they are not alone – help is available. The following are some of the common mental health issues experienced by children and adolescents. All of the information was obtained from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994), the dominant system used to describe currently recognized disorders that may arise in infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. If you recognize these symptoms in someone you know, seek help from your local Mental Health Professional or find resources at the American Psychiatric Association.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder: “A recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures.” It is characterized by frequent display of at least four of the following behaviors: losing temper, arguing with adults, defying the requests of adults, deliberately doing things to annoy others, blaming others, being easily annoyed by others, being angry, spiteful, vindictive or resentful. To qualify for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, the behaviors must occur “more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level and must lead to significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.”
Adjustment Disorder: “a psychological response to an identifiable stressor or stressors that results in the development of clinically significant emotional or behavioral symptoms.” This disorder is subtyped depending on the symptoms. The subtype-with depressed mood-is used when symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, tearfulness, irritability, loss of interest, withdrawal, decreased energy and tiredness are present. The subtype-with anxiety-is used when the predominant symptoms are nervousness, worrying, jitteriness and fears of separation from attachment figures. The subtype-with disturbance of conduct-is used when the child shows behaviors such as truancy, vandalism, recklessness, fighting and other disturbance in conduct.
Eating Disorders: “Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.” A disturbance in perception of body shape and weight is a feature of both types of this disorder. When seriously underweight, individuals with Anorexia Nervosa manifest depressive symptoms such as social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia and depressed mood. Obsessive-compulsive characteristics are also common. Other features commonly associated with Anorexia Nervosa include concerns about eating in public, a strong need to control one’s environment, perfectionism and inflexible thinking. Depressive symptoms are also common in individuals with Bulimia Nervosa, and there is also an increased frequency of anxiety disorders with Bulimia Nervosa. Additionally, there is a higher prevalence of substance abuse and dependence.
Conduct Disorder: “Repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.” Conduct Disorder manifests in one of four groups of behaviors: aggressive conduct that threatens or causes harm to other people or to animals, nonaggressive conduct that causes property damage, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violations of rules. Children with this disorder may display bullying behavior, initiate physical fights, be physically cruel to others or to animals, deliberately destroy property, frequently lie, steal property, disregard curfew, run away and skip school.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: “A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” There are three subtypes within this disorder – Predominantly Inattentive Type, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type and Combined Type. Inattention can be manifest in academic and social situations. The child fails to pay attention to details, makes careless mistakes with schoolwork, is disorganized, doesn’t complete tasks, is easily distracted and may often appear to be day dreaming. Hyperactivity may be manifested by fidgetiness, excessive moving around in inappropriate situations, talking excessively, and the inability to sit still. Impulsivity may be seen as impatience, yelling out answers, interrupting, failing to listen to directions, grabbing objects from others and engaging in high-risk activities.