What are the common mental health and developmental disorders seen in children and teens?
Some of the most common disorders we see are:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems in this age group. Generalised anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia and panic disorder are all types of anxiety disorder.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterised by poor attention, easy distractibility, fidgetiness/hyperactivity and impulsivity.
- Depression is characterised by a child or teen feeling sad, irritable or hopeless. Children with depression may feel easily tired and lose interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy. It can affect sleep, appetite and overall functioning at home and at school.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterised by difficulties in communication, social interaction and repetitive or stereotyped patterns of behaviour.
When should I seek help for my child or teen/How do I know that my child needs help?
Mental health, developmental or behavioural problems need to be assessed if they are severe, long lasting or having an impact on daily activities. You should seek professional help if your child:
- Has difficulty with play or friendships or interacting with people generally
- Appears sad, worried, or fearful
- Has reduced or increased appetite or sleep difficulties
- Does not spend time with friends or family preferring to be by themselves
- Is struggling with their studies and getting low grades
- Does not have an interest in going to school
- Is hyperactive, impulsive, or has trouble focusing
- Is aggressive towards others or hurts themselves
How will my child/teen be diagnosed? How are children’s mental health problems diagnosed?You and your child will be seen by our psychiatrist for an initial history taking and observation session at the end of which you will be given feedback about likely diagnosis, management and further assessment (if required). Your child may be seen again by the psychiatrist or referred to another professional in the team for further assessment or treatment. In some cases, standardized tests may also be done. The clinician/s involved in your child’s care will analyse all of the information and make a diagnosis. They will discuss therapy options with you if indicated.
What are the treatments for mental health and behavioural health difficulties?Often psychological therapy, behavioural therapy, classroom strategies, and family support may be all a child needs. In some cases, medicines and family therapy may be required. A majority of children who receive the right kind of treatment get better.
How are children’s and teens’ mental and behavioural health difficulties treated?
Some of the treatment options are:
- Psychotherapy or Psychological Therapy (“talk therapy”). These are therapies which aim to change patterns of thinking, feeling or behaviour. There are many different forms of psychological therapy, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, mentalization based therapy, interpersonal therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy directed at specific conditions.
- Effective psychotherapy for children always includes parent involvement in the treatment.
- Medications. Sometimes it is necessary to use medicines either alone or in conjunction with psychological therapy. The type of medicines used for children depends on the diagnosis and may include antidepressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers, or other medications.
- Family counselling Including family members in treatment can help them to understand how a child's challenges may affect relationships with parents and siblings. Sometimes patterns of communication or
- Behaviour Therapy using positive behaviour support principles, for challenging and oppositional behaviours as well as for general behaviour modification.
- Support for parents. Sessions for parents that include training and developing new strategies for supporting a child and managing difficult behaviour in a positive way. The therapist also can coach parents on how to communicate and work with schools on accommodations.