- Mental disorders in children are quite common, occurring in about one-quarter of this age group in any given year.
- The most common childhood mental disorders are anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Although less common, developmental disorders and psychotic disorders in children can have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family.
- As in any age group, there tends to be no single cause for mental illness in children.
- In addition to the specific symptoms of each mental disorder, children with a psychiatric illness can exhibit signs that are specific to their age and developmental status.
- Establishing the diagnosis of a mental illness in children usually involves the combination of comprehensive medical, developmental, and mental-health assessments.
- There are a variety of treatments available for managing mental illness in children, including several effective medications, educational or occupational interventions, as well as specific forms of psychotherapy.
- Children with mental-health problems can have lower educational achievement, greater involvement with the criminal justice system, and fewer stable placements in the child welfare system than their peers.
- Attempts at prevention of childhood mental illness tend to address both specific and nonspecific risk factors, strengthen protective factors, and use an approach that is appropriate for the child’s developmental level.
- Research on mental illness in children is focused on a number of issues, including increasing the understanding of how often these illnesses occur, the riskfactors, most effective treatments, and how to improve the access that children have to those treatments.
What are the most common mental illnesses in children?
Mental disorders in children are quite common and sometimes severe. About one-fourth of children and teens experience some type of mental disorder in any given year, one-third at some time in their lives. The most common kind of mental disorders are anxiety disorders, like overanxious disorder of childhood or separation anxiety disorder. Other common types of mental illnesses in childhood include behavior disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders like depression, and substance-use disorders like alcohol use disorders. Statistics indicate how relatively common these disorders occur. ADHD affects 8%-10% of school-aged children. Depression occurs at a rate of about 2% during childhood and from 4%-7% during adolescence, affecting up to about 20% of adolescents by the time they reach adulthood. In teens more frequently than in younger children, addictions, bipolar disorder, and less often early onset schizophrenia may manifest.
Although not as commonly occurring, developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorders can have a significant lifelong impact on the life of the child and his or her family. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Statistics about autisminclude that it afflicts one out of every 88 children, a 78% increase in the past 10 years.