Evaluating the Role of Paediatrician for Mental Illness in Children
Mental illness in children is not unheard of, and they are equally susceptible to similar issues as adults. Ironically, when we speak about mental illness in young adults and kids, iconic films like Inside Out come to mind. Inside Out is a quintessential representation of underage children struggling with mental and emotional disorders. However, the signs and symptoms can be more severe.
Mental illness is a chronic ailment and should be handled with care and concern, especially when the said patient is a young child. Studies show that approximately 50 million children suffer from some mental health issues in India alone. Depression, being one of the significant aspects of mental health illness, affects 1.1% of adolescents between ages 10-14 years and 2.8% of 15–19-year-olds. On the other hand, ADHD (attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder) is seen in 3.1% of 10-14 years old.
Regardless of the numbers being minuscule, the statistics raise a glaring concern for parents. Therefore, consulting the best Pediatrician for your child will ensure that they can unfurl beautifully as they grow up into healthy and mentally sound young adults.
Mental Illness in Children – Apparent Signs and Symptoms
Mental health can be defined as the holistic well-being of one’s cognitive processes, emotional regulation, and behavior. A mental illness, also known as a mental health disorder, refers to alterations or consistent deviations in thought processes, emotions, or behaviors that lead to distress or impair an individual’s functioning.
In children, mental health disorders are typically characterized as obstacles or interruptions in the normal progression of age-related cognitive abilities, behaviors, social interactions, or emotional management. These difficulties upset children and hinder their ability to effectively navigate home life, school environments, or social settings.
A close watch out for the apparent signs and symptoms could guide parents to seek professional advice. These early warning signs usually vary from going completely unnoticed to glaring in the face, often termed child tantrums. But, as parents, one should learn to differentiate between a regular tantrum and a subtle early sign of mental illness.
A few common signs of mental illness in children have been mentioned below as examples:
- Prolonged Period of Sadness: Your child displays continued sadness enduring for a span of two weeks or beyond.
- Social Hermit: When your child retreats from social engagements or evades them altogether.
- Suicidal Intent: When a young adolescent practices self-inflicted harm, thinks about death or discusses self-harm.
- Fits of Rage: Children demonstrating sudden bursts of anger or excessive irritability.
- Daredevils: When children, adolescents, and young adults engage in risky behaviors posing harm to themselves and others.
- Mood Swings: Dramatic shifts in mood, conduct, or character when witnessed frequently in kids.
- Irregular Eating Patterns: Alterations in young children’s eating patterns often result in weight loss.
- Sleep Depravity: Sleep disturbances or insomnia in young children, which is usually an uncommon syndrome.
- Physical Pain: When your child complains about recurring headaches or stomach pains.
- Loss of Focus: Young kids often find it challenging to focus on studies or extracurricular activities.
- Poor Grades: Children struggling with mental issues will exhibit poor academic performance suddenly, regardless of their prior promising grades.
- Skip School: When your child’s attendance drops following their frequent avoidance or absence from school for trivial matters.
Do the signs sound familiar? If yes, then you need to refer a good Pediatrician experienced with remediating mental illness in children.
Unearthing the Root Cause Behind a Child’s Mental Illness
Mental health problems are deep-rooted, and the connection is found somewhere in their troubled childhood. Many adults exhibiting similar antisocial behaviors are possibly victims of the same. The earlier signs went unnoticed; hence, they grew up indulging in drug usage and resorting to antisocial behaviors, often getting caught in severe crimes as well. Therefore, mental illness in children should not be brushed off as mere tantrums, but the root cause should be identified on priority, and get professional help for earlier remediation.
That being said, let’s evaluate the factors potentially responsible for mental illness in children:
Psychological Trauma: Certain mental conditions can be activated or precipitated by psychological trauma, such as intense emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse: PTSD (Post-Traumatic-Stress-Syndrome) may result from abuse, witnessing trauma, or experiencing profound losses like parental death during the early years.
Death or Divorce in the Family: Losing a close family member, primarily either or both parents, through death or divorce can easily culminate in a mental disorder in the child.
Neglected Early Years: Severe emotional neglect from either or both parents following their divorce or death can compel the child to withdraw and develop coping syndrome, often resulting in a mental disorder.
Genetic Factors: Genes and family background shape mental health. A relative’s mental illness suggests genetic and environmental interplay in recurring family challenges.
Environmental Stress: Childhood mental issues can stem from stress, like bullying, affecting those vulnerable to mental disorders through traumatic events.
Brain Defects or Injury: Certain mental illnesses have been associated with brain defects or injuries affecting specific brain areas. Any brain injury at a tender age can damage the child mentally while growing up.
Life Stressors: Factors like poverty, bullying, or divorce can contribute to mental health issues among children. These are usually termed as life stressors capable of significantly damaging a young mind.
Biology: Brain chemical imbalance affects communication between nerve cells, causing mental illness-like symptoms. The imbalance can be triggered by certain brain defects or injuries, leading to mental illnesses in toddlers and young adults.
So, next time, if you see your child acting out for no apparent reason, take it as an early sign of plausible child mental illness.
A piece of advice for all parents: Please do not ignore these symptoms and address them without procrastinating.
Common Types of Mental Illness in Children
Mental health or developmental disorders in children should be addressed by mental health professionals. The most common types typically witnessed in their early years would be:
Anxiety Disorders: Children with anxiety disorders experience ongoing fears or worries hindering their engagement in play, school, and age-related social activities.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Children diagnosed with ADHD struggle with attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, or a mix of these challenges compared to peers their age.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): autism spectrum disorder, typically emerging before age 3, is a neurological condition varying in severity and causing challenges in communication and social interaction.
Eating Disorders: Eating disorders involve fixation on body image, distorted thoughts about weight, and unhealthy eating habits like anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating. They yield severe consequences.
Depression, or Mood Swings: Depression is ongoing sadness and disinterest affecting a child’s school performance and social interactions. Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings.
Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD): PTSD encompasses lasting emotional distress, anxiety, memories, nightmares, and disruptive behavior following traumatic experiences like violence or abuse.
Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia disrupts perception and thinking, leading to a detachment from reality (psychosis). It involves hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thoughts and behaviors.
How to Remediate Mental Illness in Children
Children’s mental health issues are diagnosed and managed by evaluating symptoms and their impact on daily life. A specialist, like a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Pediatrician, or mental health professional, may assess and diagnose the condition.
Typically, the treatment options are standard, including therapies like Psychotherapy and Medication. Alongside therapies and medication, constant love, comfort, security, and assurance also go a long way in convincing troubled children that they are safe and loved.
Having said that, approaching a medical professional for the treatment of your child struggling with chronic mental sickness should not be done in haste. Since it’s your child’s future that is at stake, you should evaluate the expertise of the doctor before you can trust them with your ward’s mental health.
A small tip: do your research adequately first to understand which doctor to approach and how to choose for an adequate diagnosis.
Pediatricians – Specialized Professionals for Childcare
A Pediatrician specializes in caring for infants, adolescents, and children, addressing their physical, mental, and behavioral health needs. They play a vital role in:
- Ensuring timely vaccinations
- Monitoring developmental milestones
- Diagnosing and treating illnesses
- Offering guidance on your child’s physical and mental well-being
How to Choose a Pediatrician for Your Child – Things to Consider
Considering the pivotal role Pediatricians play in your child’s overall physical and mental health, choosing one is vital. This field of science is standard, and you might find one Pediatrician in every sector where you live. Besides their degree, other factors matter most, especially their conduct with children and patients’ feedback.
Here is a list of a handfuls of factors to consider before choosing a pediatrician for your child:
- Specialist’s qualifications and credentials
- Years and types of experience
- Affiliation with hospitals
- Patient feedback
- Comfort levels for both you and your child.
The Final Takeaway
Time and again, it has been stated that mental illness in children should not be taken lightly as they are the future generation growing up. Therefore, identifying the most experienced Pediatrician can genuinely help your child both in terms of their physical and mental well-being.
Look for top Pediatricians at our Parvathi Hospital and give your child the best treatment they deserve.