Understanding Signs of Mental Disorders

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize mental health issues in adults and children. Some things we grow out of such as “going through a phase”. Other things are harder to see. In all cases if a child (or an adult) is showing the signs below, you should probably look for help. Your health care professional may be able to help you separate the serious from the not so serious.

Signs of Mental Health Disorders Can Signal a Need for Help

It’s easy for parents to recognize when a child has a high fever. A child’s mental health problem may be more difficult to identify. Mental health problems can’t always be seen. But the symptoms can be recognized.

Children and adolescents with mental health issues need to get help as soon as possible. A variety of signs may point to mental health disorders or serious emotional disturbances in children or adolescents. Pay attention if a child or adolescent you know has any of these warning signs:

A child or adolescent is troubled by feeling:

  • Sad and hopeless for no reason, and these feelings do not go away.
  • Very angry most of the time and crying a lot or overreacting to things.
  • Worthless or guilty often.
  • Anxious or worried often.
  • Unable to get over a loss or death of someone important.
  • Extremely fearful or having unexplained fears.
  • Constantly concerned about physical problems or physical appearance.
  • Frightened that his or her mind either is controlled or is out of control.

A child or adolescent experiences big changes, such as:

  • Showing declining performance in school.
  • Losing interest in things once enjoyed.
  • Experiencing unexplained changes in sleeping or eating patterns.
  • Avoiding friends or family and wanting to be alone all the time.
  • Daydreaming too much and not completing tasks.
  • Feeling life is too hard to handle.
  • Hearing voices that cannot be explained.
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts.

A child or adolescent experiences:

  • Poor concentration and is unable to think straight or make up his or her mind.
  • An inability to sit still or focus attention.
  • Worry about being harmed, hurting others, or doing something “bad”.
  • A need to wash, clean things, or perform certain routines hundreds of times a day, in order to avoid an unsubstantiated danger.
  • Racing thoughts that are almost too fast to follow.
  • Persistent nightmares.

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