We often think of childhood as a time of carefree play and enjoyment. Whilst this is true for the most part, many children are also vulnerable to the same emotional and mental health issues that adults face. Research indicates that as many as one in five children and adolescents currently live with an identifiable mental disorder that requires some form of treatment.
As with adults, psychological counselling can help with many of these issues. Conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are all examples of possible conditions that can occur during childhood.
What to look out for
A number of warning signs can occur that indicate that your child might be in need of therapy.
◦ Persistent feelings of worry, stress and anxiety
◦ Persistent feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
◦ Sudden, unexplained poor performance at school
◦ Being unable to concentrate or make decisions
◦ Being unable to sit still
◦ Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
◦ Hearing voices/seeing things
◦ Alcohol and/or drug use
◦ Engaging in violent behaviour such as vandalism or hurting animals
If a child or adolescent shows some of these signs over a significant period of time, it is likely that he or she may be experiencing some psychological problems that they need help with. It is very important to spot the signs early, as prolonged exposure can result in the problem becoming significantly worse.
Other things to consider:
Some degree of acting out is normal
Remember, childhood can still be hard regardless of whether your child may have a problem or not. Meltdowns and outbursts are a normal part of child development and can also be considered a kind of rite of passage for most kids.
The severity of their behaviours
Often, it is when the behaviours listed above interfere with day to day routines on a regular basis that indicate a child might have a problem. For example, it is normal for children to try and avoid having to go to school. However, if they are having temper tantrums or emotional breakdowns every single day (making you late for work or unable to make them go) then this could be a sign of a more serious problem.
Anxiety and depression does not look the same in children as it does in adults
Some unexpected signs of anxiety in children include trouble focusing, violent tantrums and avoidance. These can be mistaken as not being typical of anxious behaviours, however it is important to remember that children are still developing and learning to understand themselves. Likewise, signs of depression can also be different. Irritability, outbursts and changes in sleeping and eating patterns are not uncommon for children with depression.