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  • According to the CDC, it’s estimated that one in six children in the U.S. between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health issue such as Depression, Anxiety or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

    Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, and social skills. These issues can contribute to difficulty in school and in relationships with friends or family. The earlier a diagnosis is determined, a treatment plan can be started. Studies have shown that early treatment can help prevent more severe, or lasting problems. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done, as it can be hard to discern indicators of underlying mental health issues in children and teens from typical childhood “growing pains”. This article will help you learn what symptoms to watch for.

    Common Mental Health Issues In Children & Adolescents

    The most common behavioral health disorders experienced by children and adolescents fall into the following categories:

    • Anxiety disorders 

    • Depression and other mood disorders

    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

    • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    • Autism spectrum disorders

    • Eating disorders

    • Schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders (but to a much lesser degree)

    Compounding the complexity of identifying common issues is the fact that it’s very common for children and adolescents to have symptoms that cut across multiple disorders. For example, more than 25% of children with ADHD also have Anxiety, and another 25% meet the criteria for Depression and other Mood Disorders. Additionally, even though children can experience the same mental health issues as adults, their symptoms may be different.

    Mental Health Issues In Children May Be Hard To Identify; Therefore Initial Evaluations Should Be Done By Clinicians Who Specialize In This Age Group

    Evaluation of children and adolescents with mental health symptoms is typically more complex than that of adults. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), evaluation differs in the following ways:

    • Developmental context is critical when evaluating children; for example, behaviors that are normal at a young age may indicate a serious mental disorder at an older age.

    • Children exist in the context of a family system, and that system has a significant impact on their symptoms and behaviors; for example, children living in a family with domestic violence or substance abuse may superficially appear to have one or more mental health issues. In these cases, clinicians rely on direct observation, corroborated by observations of others, such as other relatives and teachers, to determine whether to make a true mental health diagnosis or not.

    • Developmental and behavioral problems, like poor academic progress, or delays in speech and language can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from those that are in actuality due to a mental health disorder. In these cases, it's not unusual for formal developmental and neuropsychological testing to be recommended as part of the evaluation process.

    Watch For These Warning Signs Of Mental Health Issues In Children & Adolescents

    So how do you know if a symptom is just part of being a kid, or should be treated as a mental health symptom? How do you know when to request a formal evaluation for potential mental health issues? According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), children and adolescents may benefit from an evaluation (and ultimately treatment) if they have more than one of these symptoms:

    • Have frequent tantrums or are intensely irritable much of the time

    • Talk about fears or worries frequently

    • Complain about frequent stomach or headaches with no known medical cause

    • Are in constant motion and cannot sit still 

    • Sleep too much or too little, have frequent nightmares, or seem sleepy during the day

    • Are spending more and more time alone, are not interested in playing with other children or have difficulty making friends

    • Struggle academically or have experienced a recent decline in grades

    • Repeat actions or check things many times out of fear that something bad may happen.

    • Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy

    • Fear gaining weight, or diet or exercise excessively

    • Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning)

    • Smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs

    • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends

    • Have thoughts of suicide

    • Have sudden periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual

    • Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear

    Have You Noticed Any Of These Warning Signs In A Child Or Adolescent In Your Life?

    Telemynd is a nationally delegated telebehavioral health provider for Tricare members. You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists who can evaluate, diagnose and provide treatment for mental health issues in children and adolescents from the convenience of home. Click here to find your current insurance provider to request an appointment today!  


    CDC: Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health
    Merck Diagnostic Manuals: Overview of Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents


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