Diagnosis, Treatment and Causes of Psychological Disorders in Children

These days we know more about children’s psychological disorders than was known in the past. Certain behaviors can be diagnosed and treated as something very specific. Some causes of psychological disorders are controversial and the treatments that doctors administer can be very controversial as well. Causes deal with a child’s environment, their role models, parents, friends, and genetic make-up, among other things.

Mental health deals with how we think, feel, and act as we face different situations each day. Mental health is how we look at ourselves, our lives, and the people in our lives. Also, it includes how we handle stress, how we relate to others, and how we go about making our decisions. There are so many different things that can be affected by mental health. An example of this could be school, physical health, personal relationships, as well as professional relationships. If someone has poor mental health he or she could begin to fail in school, have conflicts with family or friends, develop a drug habit, result to violence or even consider suicide. If a young person has a mental health problem it can limit his or her current and future ability to be productive. There are so many causes for mental health problems. They can be cause by biological factors such as: genetics, chemical imbalances, or damage to the central nervous system.

Environment can also play a big part, and a disorder can be caused by a mix of both biological factors and environmental factors. Examples of environmental factors are witnessing violence (sexual abuse, muggings), living in chronic poverty, being exposed to constant discrimination or serious hardships, or undergoing a loss of an important person (including death, divorce, or a broken relationship). There is quite a long list of warning signs when it comes to a psychological disorder. If a child is sad without any logical reason, he or she feels guilty or worthless a lot, he or she feels anxious, angry, or if he or she becomes extremely concerned with physical appearance, or well being, he or she could be suffering from a psychological disorder. More specifically, something could be wrong if a child’s grades drop drastically and suddenly, if he or she loses interest in things he or she would normally enjoy, they experience a loss of sleep, they lose their appetite, or they avoid family and friends. Soon they could begin to feel that things are becoming too hard to handle and they consider killing themselves.

Our moods and behaviors are regulated by chemicals in our brain that are called “neurotransmitters.” One common kind of psychological disorders are eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa. Another disorder that is becoming more and more apparent in children these days is ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Some symptoms of ADD are: impulsiveness, a low tolerance for frustration, difficulty performing repetitive tasks, inconsistent school performance, and when he or she has a difficulty sitting still. Obsessive/Compulsive disorder (another common psychological disorder) is more common among adults but signs of the disorder begin in early childhood. Symptoms of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder are repeated actions over and over. He or she might worry about unlikely threats such as AIDS, or dying in accidents such as a house fire. Also, there are more uncommon disorders like Social Phobia which is an avoidance of social situations because the person might have a fear of being ridiculous or bothered by other people. A phobia is an unreasonable fear that becomes so serious that it interferes with our work and our social lives. 13% of us have, or have had, a phobia. A panic disorder includes episodes of high anxiety, with rapid breathing and a high heart rate. A separation anxiety disorder is an extreme fear of separation from family members, to the point where the child refuses to go to school or go outside to play. Seven percent of all Americans have suffered from anxiety in the past month. Most of those seven percent were not diagnosed with any form of an anxiety disorder.

Nowadays, good sleep is very important. It is the key to being in a good mood, working efficiently, thinking clearly, and having good health. 45% of over and under sleepers suffer from an emotional disorder, especially anxiety or depressive disorders. Common treatments for insomnia could be therapy or drug treatments.

Another large cause of psychological problems in children is child abuse. Personally I feel this is one of the largest causes because of what I have learned about this kind of abuse. When children are harmed they do not always develop at the rate that they should be developing at, and sometimes they do not develop at all. CAPTA is a Child Abuse prevention group and they define child abuse as “at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious.” Legally, a child is someone who has not reached the age of 18. There are four forms of child maltreatment: emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. CAPTA defines sexual abuse as

The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children or incest with children.

Based on this definition, how could someone say that child abuse could not cause psychological problems? Child abuse is a very destructive thing that can confuse a person, and mentally affect them. Sexual abuse is a very inappropriate behavior directed towards a child. Sexual abuse can include anything such as fondling of a child’s genitals, making a child fondle the adult’s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and sexual exploitation. In order for this behavior to be considered child abuse, it must be committed by a person who is responsible for the child, such as babysitters, a parent, or day-care advisors. If a child is abused by a complete stranger, it can be considered sexual assault and when taken to court it could drag on, putting the child through more “abuse” than it should have to go through. That could be yet another traumatic experience that could cause a psychological disorder. Emotional abuse (this includes verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment) involves things that someone has done, or hasn’t done to a person that ends up affecting them greatly. This could also involve severe punishments and treatments like keeping a child in confinement for large amounts of time, or threatening a child. Less severe acts, but still abuse, could be while yelling at a child, using derogatory terms or blaming the child for something that really isn’t his or her fault. Physical abuse is “the inflicting of physical injury upon a child.” This includes hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, burning or beating the child. This could be considered as over-discipline. Neglect deals with not providing a child with their basic needs. If they are not fed properly, given appropriate attention, washed regularly, given necessary medical attention, supervision, or other things on that level, the child is being neglected.

There are also specific types of neglect such as educational neglect (failure to provide proper schooling) and psychological neglect, which involves the lack of emotional involvement and love that is needed for any child. If they do not receive this, how are they expected to develop normally?

Another child abuse prevention organization is ISPCAN, which stands for International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. ISPCAN, which was founded in 1977, is the only multidisciplinary, international organization that brings together a worldwide crossection of committed professionals to work towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse. Their personal mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form. Some of Scan’s worldwide partners are ACA (Against Child Abuse), NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect), NOPCA (National Organization of the Prevention of Child Abuse), APSAC (The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children), PPKM (Translation equals: The Malaysian Association for the Protection of Children), CASPCAN (Cameroon Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect), and SASPCAN (South African Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect). All of these organizations realize what an impact child abuse can have.

Moving on to yet another psychological disorder that is apparent in children is autism. Autism affects infants and children but the disease stays with them for the rest of their lives. It deals with the child’s development and most of all, how they communicate. When children develop autism they often modify their diet and become picky eaters. They choose foods they like, and want to eat, and they consume them to excess.

There is quite a long list of the physical problems that autistic children suffer from. Some of these problems include: bloating, constipation, swollen stomach, breaks wind frequently, pale skin, giggling and screaming for no apparent reason, diarrhea, excessive thirst, excessive sweating, hyperactivity, low blood sugar, and sleeplessness. Of course, a child who has autism does not suffer from all these things but quite a few can be present at one time. It is believed that autism can be prevented while the child is still in the mother’s womb because professionals believe that certain foods and everyday chemicals have seriously affected the condition.

If children are subject to excessive alienation from a parent or a caregiver, they may develop a mental illness. The child experiences an extreme loss, the magnitude of which could be compared to the death of a parent, two grandparents, and all the lost parent’s relatives and friends. Based on that comparison, it is very understandable that a child could develop a psychological disorder from this. Parental Alienation Syndrome can be provoked by conflicts such as custody matters, child support, or other trivial differences. In the case of divorce matters, slow judgments by the courts make the problem even worse. After children are separated from a parent, they may want to reestablish relations with the lost parent and his family. However, more disappointment occurs if they cannot find the parent, or if the parent does not want to be involved with the child anymore. Sometimes, it may be discovered that the parent has died. As a result of finding this out, they may turn against the other parent as well. Observations have concluded that mothers engage in Parental Alienation Syndrome more frequently (Especially in divorce situations).

It is estimated that two thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting help. It could be because they do not think that their symptoms could be an actual disorder, or they are not receiving enough support from their loved ones, in getting help. There are so many services out there for people who have a psychological disorder. There is counseling, day treatment, crisis outreach teams, education, health services, legal services, psychiatric consultation, recreational therapy, self help techniques, support groups, tutoring, vocational counseling and most of all, family support. Every child’s mental health is important. There are many children who have psychological disorders and these problems are real severe. However, they can all be recognized and treated.

I firmly believe that a good portion of these disorders could be eliminated and prevented if parents do what they are supposed to do. If someone chooses to have a child, they should do everything in their power to make sure that child is able to live the best life possible. This includes the mother taking care of herself when she is pregnant and everything that follows after the child is born. Children do not ever need to be hit, or punished so severely as to lock them in a room and keep them in confinement for a good portion of their lives. Yes, some disorders are caused by things that cannot be prevented but there are the other disorders that can be prevented just by a parent paying attention to their child and giving them the attention that they need.

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