Most Common Mental Illness in Children and Their Symptoms

Statistics show that mental illness in children is a worryingly common phenomenon: as many as 20% of American children could have a diagnosable ailment. As many as 5 million children could have a mental condition serious enough to interfere with their day-to-day functioning. We look at some of the most common mental disorders in children and their symptoms.

Mental Illness in Children

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly seen mental illness in children. These can manifest in many ways: the child can seem worried about school performance and may be unsure of their own abilities. The anxiety may be disproportionate to the situation. Children with anxiety disorders may be typically worried about things and may think in terms of “what ifs”. They may often have a sense of impending doom.

The child may be fearful of trying things because they are afraid of making mistakes and may have a need for more than usual amounts of approval and reassurance. The child may be of a perfectionist bent of mind and may be overly critical of himself or herself.

Disruptive behavior disorders

Disruptive behavior disorders are another group of commonly seen mental illness in children. Childrenwith this disorder may be apt to break rules, show opposition to authority and frequently show defiant and unruly behavior. Stress, trauma or problems with brain chemistry could be responsible for such behaviors.

The child may have difficulty focusing, paying attention in class and may be frequently and significantly disruptive in school. Anger, aggression, restlessness, tantrums and even violence could characterize this mental disorder.

Pervasive developmental disorders

This is a term used to describe developmental delays and other problems in children. There could be a delay in developing motor and speech skills. The child may have trouble communicating and socializing with others. With these mental illnesses in children, the child may be slow in achieving milestones and may have problems understanding the world around them.

Mental illness in children classified as pervasive developmental disorder include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett’s syndrome and other non-specified developmental disorders.

Eating and elimination disorders

These disorders are more common among girl children. There could be an obsession with regard to weight and size, healthy eating and so on. Symptoms could include sudden weight loss, or weight fluctuations. The child may show secretive behavior, and may refuse to eat along with others. They may spend inordinate amounts of time exercising and may also have issues relating to self-esteem.

Bed wetting (enuresis), and other difficulties relating to urine and feces are symptoms of mental illness in children relating to elimination.

Tic disorders

These disorders are characterized by involuntary, uncontrollable and meaningless movements repeatedly.

Affective or mood disorders

Depression, bipolar disorder and so on are among the affective or mood disorders that could afflictchildren. They child may veer between extreme happiness and may be plunged into sadness the next with this mental illness in children. More serious mental conditions like schizophrenia could cause the child to have a distorted sense of reality, perceptions and thoughts.


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