Studies are showing that as many as one in five children may have an identifiable mental, emotional or behavior disorder. Although this number is staggering, the good news is that once identified, such disorders are highly treatable.
The nine most common behavior disorders in children include anxiety disorder, depression, bi-polar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disorder, conduct disorder, eating disorder, autism and schizophrenia. Regardless of whether the origin of these disorders is biological, environmental, or a combination of the two, children with behavioral disorders tend to exhibit common signs and symptoms. By learning about these symptoms, parents and caregivers can ensure that children who may have one or more of these behavior disorders get treatment.
- Anxiety disorders can include phobias, panic, obsessive compulsive behaviors, post-traumatic stress and generalized anxiety. Children with an anxiety disorder tend to have unrealistic fears and continually worry in a manner that affects their everyday life. They often exhibit physical symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and nausea. Anxiety-related behavior disorders are usually treated with a combination of medication and talk therapy, however, mild cases may be treated with talk therapy alone. According to a study conducted by U.S. Health and Human Services, 13 in 100 children ages nine to 17 are affected by anxiety disorders.
- Depression is often characterized by withdrawal from friends and family and a lack of interest in usual activities. As many as two in 100 children and eight in 100 adolescents suffer from depression. Signs of depression in childhood are similar to those in adulthood, and include frequent crying, feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest in playing and school, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and vague physical aches and pains. Since depression can lead to suicide, parents and caregivers should seek help right away if they believe a child is suffering from depression.
- Bipolar Disorder can be recognized by observing a cycle of highs and lows. During high, or manic periods, children often are very excited, talk rapidly or non-stop, have an over-inflated sense of self-esteem and have trouble controlling their own impulsive behaviors. During low, or depressive periods, children will exhibit signs of depression, including low self esteem, loss of appetite and sleeping more than usual.
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, or ADD, is suspected when a child is impulsive, easily distracted, and unable to focus, sit still, or keep quiet. It is believed that five in every 100 children in the U.S. suffer from ADHD. A child must exhibit the signs of ADHD in more than one setting in order to meet the criteria of ADHD.
- Learning disorders are often linked with behavioral disorders, and sometimes one is mistaken for the other. The inability to retain or express information or difficulty with language could signify a learning disorder. Caught and treated early, many learning disorders can be overcome, so it is important to seek help as soon as possible if you suspect a child may have a learning disorder.
- Eating disorders are a dangerous form of behavioral disorder and must always be taken seriously. The two most common eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, can have a number of causes. Usually, the child believes she or he is too fat, and either refuses most foods as in anorexia, or eats large amounts and then vomits, as in bulimia. A fixation on weight and body image, an unhealthy low weight, and constant refusal of food are signs of eating disorders.
- Autism affects between 10 and 12 of every 10,000 children in the U.S. and is often linked with other behavioral disorders. Signs of autism include difficulty communicating, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty interacting with others. Most children show signs of autism by age three.
- Schizophrenia is a disorder that causes children to have psychotic periods during which they may exhibit paranoid behavior, experience hallucinations, and be unable to determine what is real and what is not. It is estimated that up to five in 1,000 children may be Schizophrenic. Treatment can help a child diagnosed with Schizophrenia to lead a normal life.
- Although these behavioral disorders may seem difficult and overwhelming, especially when a parent first suspects their child may be suffering from one or more of them, there is hope and plenty of help. Research into these disorders is intense and ongoing and a number of treatment methods have proved to be successful. The days of shame and misunderstanding are in the past, and the time of hope and treatment is here.