Behavioral and Mood Disorders in Children
Do you sometimes wonder if your child or teen’s behavior, moods, or attitude are “normal” for their developmental age and stage? Given the complexities of growing up in today’s society it can be hard to tell if your child is having difficulty coping, or experiencing a childhood disorder that would benefit from intervention and treatment.
Some common childhood behavioral disorders include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-which is described on a different web page, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. This disorder has symptoms such as :
- Being easily annoyed/angry
- Has tantrums
- Is spiteful or mean
- Blames others for their own mistakes and
- Deliberately bothering/teasing others.
These behaviors, if not addressed, can later escalate into additional conduct problems such as:
- Skipping school
- Running away
- Bullying and starting fights
- Stealing or breaking of other laws, ie vandalism
- Cruelty to animals or people
- And fire setting
In addition to these behavioral disorders, children and teens can also suffer from various forms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD from various kinds of trauma, eating disorders, sensory integration, or autism spectrum disorders. Mood symptoms to watch for include:
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Changes in energy level-up or down
- Sleep Difficulties
- Isolating from family and/or peers
- Excessive use of electronics
- Negative comments about self
- Rapid, hard to follow speech/thoughts
- Thinking they are smartest or best person in the world
- Thinking about death/violence often
- Suicidal ideation or making a suicide attempt
Anxiety symptoms to watch for include:
- Worries that something terrible will happen to self or important adults
- Fear of separation, refusing or being reluctant to go somewhere
- Stomachaches not explained by a health condition
- Engaging in repeated behaviors-counting, organizing, hand washing
- Excessive worry about social situations or everyday things
- Excessive fantasy or daydreaming
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder that typically becomes evident in the first three years of life, though sometimes if it is mild it may not be noticed until older. People with autism, and any other childhood disorder, can and do lead independent and productive lives. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference. For ASD, Easter Seals has a Free Online Ages and Stages Questionnaire on their website at www.easterseals.com.
When working with children, it is very important to have parent involvement in most cases. Parents can help their children to remember their coping skills learned in therapy and practice them at home. Also, we help parents to communicate with their children by connecting to their emotions. This concept of showing empathy and understanding comes from a highly recommended book called The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel. The book explains how a child’s brain functions to help parents to understand how children process information. We commonly use these approaches when working with parents. Often there are family sessions and there are times it is appropriate to have a parent session without the child present.
If you or someone you know would benefit from screening, assessment, and possibly treatment; or referrals to appropriate resources, please contact us today.