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04. 09. 2018

Generation at Risk: Mental Disorders in Children

Growing up to be a well-developed and emotionally strong adult, who isn’t afraid to face challenges in life, has its roots back to childhood. A study revealed that about 10–20% of children and adolescents throughout the world experience mental disorders. The survey found that in children aged 7–14 years, mental disorders are one of the main causes of diseases. Another research carried out by Marie-Laure Baranne and Bruno Falissard at INSERM in France found out that during 2000–2015, the rates of mental disorders remained stable, suggesting that despite a global improvement in the physical health, the mental health of kids was not improving.

As per a report by the Indian Council of Medical Research, it was found that 12% of children in India in the age group of 4–16 suffer from psychiatric problems. Increased competition and fast-paced lifestyle are to be blamed. Children live under the constant pressure of proving their mettle in every field of life. Mental problems were found to be more prominent in economically poor countries, as lower means of living and inadequate facilities add to the stress.

If left untreated, mental disorders can lead to serious consequences later on. They can have severe impact on children’s emotional and mental health; thus greatly affecting their future of living a healthy life. Without treatment, children suffering from mental health problems can be driven towards criminal activities, dependence on social services or even suicide. It is extremely crucial to recognise these disorders and treat them at an early stage.

Here are a few major mental disorders children can suffer from:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Commonly found in younger children, it makes children extremely worried or anxious. Although the exact cause of GAD is not known, it is believed that biological factors, family background and stressful life experiences might cause GAD. Worrying becomes a significant part of children’s life and they have difficulty dealing with it. Sometimes, just going with their day can cause extreme stress or anxiety. If left untreated, the disorder can affect their social well-being as well.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

With ADHD, children tend to be hyperactive and are not able to pay attention to things. They are restless most of the time, impulsive in making decisions, and unable to concentrate. It is common for kids to have slight inattention but kids with ADHD tend to have it to a greater extent. This can be noticed in children at an early age but ADHD is mostly diagnosed in children during 6–12 years age, especially boys. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, it is important for the symptoms to be more frequent and long-lasting and to have an impairing effect on the child.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic situation might cause PTSD in kids. It is not unusual to have bad memories or feel like skipping school; however, if these symptoms are present for a long time, it might be PTSD. In case of 6-year olds, distant parents might be the reason for PTSD. Children who are 12 years of age might turn aggressive or avoid being with their family, whereas kids who are over 12 tend to suffer from depression, anxiety and reckless behaviour.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Usually found in kids under 3, this disorder affects the child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. They are unable to express themselves properly in social situations.  

Depression, Self-Harm

Teenagers are the most vulnerable to these disorders. Pressure of performing excellently at school as well as fitting in with their friends pushes children to depression and self-harm. They try to hurt themselves and can even be suicidal.

Eating Disorders

Body image issues is the reason behind eating disorders. The taxing expectations of performing well socially and academically gradually devolve into eating disorders. It is mainly seen in teenagers especially girls.

How to treat them?

The best way to treat all these disorders is to find professional help as soon as possible. Psychotherapy is the best way to treat mental problems. The issues are addressed by talking to a psychologist who helps the child learn how to cope and deal with the situations in a healthy way. Sometimes, medication like stimulants, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are also recommended by the doctor to treat mental health problems.

Along with medical help, children need unconditional emotional support, love and care from their loved ones to cope with whatever disorder they are suffering from.

Author: Payal Malhotra, Lipa Consul for India

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