Most Neglected Child Behavior Disorders Which Need Immediate Attention
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1 in 5 kids have a mental illness.
50% of all lifetime mental illnesses start by age 14.
4.4 million children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety.
1.9 million children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with depression.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in adolescents.
22% of children living below 100% of the federal poverty line have a mental health issue.
Only one child psychiatrist is available for every 15,000 youths younger than 18.
Nearly 50% of children ages 8-15 with a mental health condition did not receive mental health services in the previous year.
We understand that these figures might be frightening for you if you are a parent, but it’s important to address them in order to make them better. There are ways in which we can deal with these facts and have a positive outlook.
“The most important part of treatment for a child’s disruptive behavior disorder are Parents. The most effective interventions we’ve seen are parent-based.”, says Eugene d’Angelo, PhD, chief of Children’s Division of Psychology.
A study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) at the University of Manitoba shows that children and teens who experience mental illness are at increased risk for adverse mental health and social outcomes as adults.
“Childhood mental illnesses can lead to various ongoing challenges later in a child’s life. When a child has an illness such as anxiety, depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is likely to cloud their adult life”, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Mariette Chartier.
These facts and figures highlight the need for identifying and prevention of any behavioral disorders a child might have.
Here are the most common behavior disorders affecting the mental health of children nowadays.
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Unable to focus on tasks and completing them, being restless and distracted are some common symptoms of ADHD. These are also the behavior traits which many parents find very normal amongst kids.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a psychiatric condition which may require special care.
Such kids are often lectured in school and at home because of which they suffer from low self esteem issues. This leads to generation of negative feelings inside them which tends to make them very impulsive and they resort to things like smoking, alcohol and drugs early in life.
For children, ADHD is generally associated with problems at school. Children with ADHD often have trouble succeeding in a controlled classroom setting.
Having trouble focusing or concentrating on tasks.
Being forgetful about completing tasks.
Being easily distracted.
Having difficulty sitting still.
Interrupting people while they’re talking.
Being hyper-talkative rather than hyperactive.
Being hyper-talkative rather than hyperactive (more common in girls).
Although most of these ADHD symptoms are close to typical child behavior, one should never ignore them and seek the required help.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Typically diagnosed around: Early elementary school ages and stops being diagnosed around adolescence.
Frequent and persistent anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness are some of the most common symptoms of ODD.
It’s extremely normal for a child to be oppositional and defiant sometimes, therefore, spotting ODD is a thing a lot of parents struggle with. So what distinguishes ODD from normal behavior? The answer is, its severity and longevity. A child who had ODD will show the follow behavioral symptoms in an extreme way for atleast six months.
Being unusually angry and irritable.
Often losing their temper.
Being easily annoyed by others.
Arguing with authority figures and being resentful.
Refusing to comply with rules.
Deliberately annoying people.
Blaming others for their own mistakes/ misbehavior.
Being vindictive or spiteful.
What is anxiety? You might know anxiety to be just a common human emotion, but if its occurrence levels are severe and last longer than six months, it might be a disorder.
The feeling of anxiety can be defined as your body’s natural response to stress, in the form of fear or apprehension about what’s going to happen next. Common situations in which anxiety gets triggered are – first day of school, giving a speech on front of people etc.
When we witnesses any danger coming our way, our body releases some natural chemicals to prepare us to deal with it. These chemicals affect our heart rate, breathing, nerves, digestion and muscles. But with anxiety disorder, these chemicals are released even without the sign of a real danger.
Thus children with anxiety disorder tend to get clammy hands, dry mouth, cold feet or racing heart quite often than normal.
Increased heart rate.
Difficulty falling asleep.
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
Feeling faint or dizzy.
Shortness of breath.
Chills or hot flashes.
Apprehension and worry.
Numbness or tingling.
Depression is classified as a mood disorder. If a child is sad, angry or irritated from time to time, and the feelings of sadness, loss or anger limit his ability to function normally, he/she could possibly be depressed. Feeling sad, irritated, down or in a bad mood is normal among kids. But when depression hits, negative feelings and thoughts linger for a longer time.
Depression shows up in different ways and thus it’s difficult to recognize it. An irritated or a child prone to a lot of mood swings on one hand might just be an attitude problem. But again, just like other disorders, if it lingers for a considerably long amount of time and varies in its magnitude, it might be depression and will need a quick psychiatric assistance.
A sad or irritable mood for most of the day. Sad or angry or may look more tearful or cranky.
Feelings of incompetence (e.g. “I do everything wrong”) or despair, crying, intense sadness
Suicidal thoughts, getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school.
Your child doesn’t enjoy things that used to make him/her happy.
Changes in eating habits or weight.
Wanting to avoid family or friends.
A lack of energy or feeling unable to do simple tasks.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Low self-esteem.
Trouble focusing or making choices. School grades may drop.
Not caring about what happens in the future.
Aches and pains when nothing is really wrong.
Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
You might have experienced mood swings at some point in your life. But if mood swings include extreme emotional highs and lows in your child, it might be a point of concern.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder marked by extreme mood swings from high to low, and from low to high. One might even feel a mix of mood swings and feel happy and depressed at the same time.
Children with bipolar disorders have extreme emotional states that occur at distinct times. These states are called ‘mood episodes’. These mood episodes can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.
Severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.
Hyperactive, impulsive, aggressive or socially inappropriate behavior.
Insomnia or significantly decreased need for sleep.
Depressed or irritable mood most of the day, nearly every day during a depressive episode.
Grandiose and inflated view of own capabilities.
Suicidal thoughts or behaviors in older children and teens.
Language disorder, formerly known as receptive-expressive language disorder, is common in young children. Such children have difficulty understanding others and expressing themselves.
According to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, 10 to 15 % of the times it happens in those under the age of 3 years old. By age 4, language ability can be measured more accurately.
If, at 30 months, your child isn’t responding to questions verbally or with a nod or head shake, then it may be a sign of a language disorder.
Language Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms related to expression.
Overuse of words like “um” and “uh” because they cannot recall the right word.
Having weak vocabulary as compared to other kids of the same age.
Limited ability to form sentences.
Difficulty in using words and connecting sentences to explain or describe something due to impaired ability.
Reduced ability to have a conversation.
Leaving words out.
Saying words in the wrong order.
Repeating a question while thinking of an answer.
Confusing tenses (for example, using past tense instead of present).
If a number of the above symptoms are persistent and don’t improve then the child might need immediate attention.
What happens when a child receives excess of information from various technological sources? More often than not, the child is overwhelmed and doesn’t know how to deal with it.
This condition is called ‘information obesity’. Infobesity is a newly discovered disorder among kids and is growing day by day at a rapid pace. According to some research, every individual absorbs around 34 GB of data from their surroundings at a particular point in time.
This overload of information leads to Infobesity.
If children are spending a good amount of time in front of TV and mobile phones, there are two ways to handle it.
Option 1: Restrict the time children spend on TV and mobile phones.
Option 2: Provide healthier alternatives to TV and mobile phones that are attractive to children.
Behavioral Changes: Children become more aggressive, fragile and irritable.
Prioritizing Irrelevant Information: Inability to pay attention and focus on a relevant piece/source of information.
Bad Decisions: If children, especially, lose sight of what’s important, they make decisions based on unimportant factors. For example, a child being influenced by celebrity lives on social media and tabloids, trying to adapt to their behavior and mannerisms. The influence is such that they lose sight on their own original personality traits and pick up a false body image.
Child neglect is an act of omission by a parent or other caregiver that deprives a child of basic age-appropriate needs and can potentially result in physical or psychological harm. It encompasses lack of appropriate supervision, failure to attend to necessary emotional or psychological needs; and failure to provide adequate health care, supervision, clothing, nutrition, housing as well as their physical, emotional, social, educational and safety needs.
Neglect can come in many different ways. Some of the most common behavior traits that lead to child neglect are: Indifference to the child, apathetic or depressed, irrational, abusing alcohol or other drugs.
Child Neglect Symptoms
Is frequently absent.
Steals or begs for food or money.
Medical or dental care is lacking including immunizations or glasses.
Severe body odor and dirty consistently.
Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
Not being provided care by anyone at home.
How to deal with behavioral disorders at home?
Photo Courtesy: National Academy Of Sciences
1. Build Trust
Have open and honest conversations with your child to build their trust. Don’t just start a conversation but listen deeply to what your child has to say. There you will find a number of topics that can be discussed with kids of all age groups.
2. Start Early
“Learn to talk to your child from an early age,” says Nancy Cunningham, Psy.D., Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lots Behavioral Health Services. The ideal age to handle behavioral and emotional issues is till the age of 5. It’s extremely rare for a child to be diagnosed with a serious behavioral disorder before age 5. However, symptoms of a disorder may arise later in childhood which can be diagnosed with an expert opinion.
3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is key to managing most of the behavioral disorders. There are several natural remedies that can relieve stress and help in coping up with the disease every day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends the following:
Some of these remedies are:
Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
Get plenty of sleep.
Limit daily screen time from phones, computers, and TV.
According to studies, yoga and meditation are also powerful in calming ones senses and easing some of the symptoms of any disorder. Mindful meditation, which has shown to have positive attention and thought processes.
4. Indulge with them in their favorite activities.
Engage in activities that your kids enjoy and then allow conversations to unfold naturally. Don’t react out of judgment or fear if they say something concerning. Creating safe spaces for your children to talk, helps in making them more comfortable in sharing difficult feelings and emotions when they need help.
When to seek help?
Most of the disorders are often misunderstood and considered a taboo in our society. There is a great deal of confusion about where to draw the line between typical childhood behavior and that which signals a clinical condition requiring treatment.
The best form of treatment is early intervention. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment. If your child needs help, a child behavior specialist is bound to put your mind at ease. Meeting with a trained professional doesn’t mean that your child is crazy, or that you are not a competent parent. It simply means that kids need a little extra support and or an alternate type of method to be their best version.
As a parent, you don’t have to go it alone in trying to manage a child with any of the above disorders. Doctors, counselors and child development experts can help. Treatment involves therapy, training to help build positive family interactions and skills to manage behaviors, and possibly medications to treat related mental health conditions.
Most importantly, remember that you, as a parent, are not alone. There are doctors, counselors and child development experts who can help you very well in managing any of the above disorders.
The treatment usually follows therapy, training to build positive family environment and providing skills to manage behaviors. Medications are used in adverse cases to balance brain chemistry to remove the most severe symptoms of the disorder.