We used to live in a world where mostly adults suffered from mental disorders. Fast forward a few decades, and you have children as young as four suffering from major depressive disorders. That is a massive change on an evolutionary level. But arguably, these changes are not for the better. These days, our teens are experiencing the same symptoms that we may see in a fifty-year-old adult who suffers from chronic depression or anxiety disorders. They experience overwhelming levels of stress that inhibit their ability to function normally. When dealing with an issue of this nature, it is essential to notice signs of possible mental illness as early as possible. Here are some alarming warning signs your child may be suffering from a mental health disorder.
1. Skipping School
To many teenagers, skipping school is a rite of passage. But for some children, it could be a sign of depression, anxiety, or another mental disorder. Truancy rates among middle schoolers, high schoolers, and teens are rising globally. Most students are too scared to tell their parents about this, so it usually goes unnoticed. As a parent, you can help your child by asking questions to determine if your child is being bullied at school. Your son or daughter might not be comfortable telling you everything that is going on at school, but they will feel more comfortable if you start a conversation with them. Otherwise, many schools now have counselors on staff who have completed an online MA in Educational Psychology or equivalent to help and guide students facing a turmoil.
2. Suicidal Talk
Telling a parent or some other adult that they want to die, or thinking about ways to kill themselves, is a grave concern. It means that your child is suffering from a mental disorder that requires treatment. The sooner you get help for them, the better off they will be in the long run. Talking about suicide can also be a sign of depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The best way to handle this kind of situation is by being supportive and understanding. If you are worried about what your child says, talk to a child psychologist or another trusted and healthy adult for advice or guidance on how to proceed. Take your child’s thoughts seriously and do not brush them off as just being ‘moody’ or ‘dramatic.’ It is crucial to take action because failing to do so can have devastating consequences.
3. Persistent Sadness
When your child seems sad, you may worry that they are going through a phase. But when sadness lingers over weeks or months, you may want to determine whether something more serious is causing it. Also, if your child is experiencing chronic depression or sadness, your child could benefit from behavioral therapy or family counseling.
4. Disturbed Sleep
Your child’s sleep habits are one of the most important things to monitor. It should be a normal process that happens every night. However, if your child is having trouble falling asleep or waking up during the night, they could be suffering from a mental disorder. When your child appears to be struggling, it is essential to consider if there might be a mental health issue present. This can help determine how best to help your child and get them the treatment they need.
5. Overbursting and Aggression
Sometimes children experience periods when they are depressed and angry, but they can control these feelings during the day. If they suddenly lash out at others or act in an uncharacteristically aggressive manner, something else may be going on. Sometimes these symptoms can be part of normal childhood development. For example, all children have behavioral problems at some point, but they should begin to disappear as they get older. Start by observing your child’s behavior over several months and, if you notice red flags, schedule a time to discuss your concerns with a child psychologist.
6. Self-Isolation and Withdrawal
Most young people experience some kind of withdrawal during their teenage years, but if your child’s self-isolation takes on a more severe form, it can be an indication of an underlying condition. For example, they might stop participating in activities they once enjoyed, like sports and social gatherings. This can be a clear indication that something is wrong. If you notice that your child has withdrawn from social interaction, get them help right away. You can take your teen to see a therapist or psychiatrist who can offer medication and counseling services to help ease symptoms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, counseling is helpful for mild to moderate depression. Therapists specializing in child and adolescent treatment can suggest other treatment options depending on the diagnosis.
7. Frequent Headaches
Frequent headaches or stomachaches might be an early symptom of mental illness in your child. If you notice your child is frequently sick, irritable, depressed, or anxious for no apparent reason, talk to his doctor about screening for mental illness. Even if your son or daughter does not have any of these symptoms, it is vital to have him screened anyway because bipolar disorder can be treated. Early treatment can prevent your child from developing full-blown bipolar illness in adulthood.
If you feel your child is showing signs of a mental disorder, remember that it is not uncommon. Most children will experience some form of developmental disorder before they finish high school. If you follow the seven warning signs above, you can positively identify mental illness in your child. Seek help by reaching out to your family doctor and counselors because early intervention can positively impact your child’s life learning abilities and relationships for years to come.