The links in the menus above and below lead to summaries of symptoms of common mental health disorders found in children (other than childhood depression, which is described in more detail in the Symptoms, Treatment, Personal Stories and other pages of this web site). You can jump to the summary that interests you by double clicking on the links.
As for every item on this website, you are reminded that the pages are prepared by a grieving parent, not by a mental health professional. If you have concern about the mental health of your child, you should learn as much as you can and then consult with a professional. But this site is dedicated to the proposition that the professionals are only better educated in mental health – not necessarily brighter or, certainly, more sensitive or sensible -- than you, the parent. Learn what you can, question and, if appropriate, challenge the professionals – then trust your instincts.
Some General Observations
These thumbnail descriptions are intended to alert parents to illnesses which may share some symptoms with depression, but are considered by the professional mental health community as separately diagnosable disorders. Frequently, a child will present to the psychiatrist, psychologist or other trained professional with two or more of these disorders. Symptoms overlap, often making an accurate diagnosis difficult.
Adding to the difficulty is that boys and girls normally go through “phases” in which some of these symptoms are displayed. Also, in the view of this website, what was (and still is) normal behavior in early adolescence — especially among boys -- is often brought to parental attention as a possible mental health issue because the behavior may be inconsistent with the atmosphere schools desire in the classroom. Clowning, occasional disrespect, lack of attention and – maybe especially -- undone homework may not reflect anything more than normal childhood development (or uninspired, dull teaching) Anxieties about school performance, friendships, dating and even the state of the world affect all of us at one time or another. This is not to suggest that you be antagonistic to the school authorities or ignore your child’s difficulties. Rather, take the school’s concerns into account and try to work with the teachers and administration to identify whether there are true mental health issues concerning your child or if she or he is simply developing a personality which may not appeal to everyone or is reacting in an understandable fashion to events in his or her life.
In dealing with the schools and mental health professionals, it is critical that parents monitor their children and assess when symptoms change, such as when new symptoms develop or specific symptoms become more or less serious or frequent. Then report these to your child’s counselor or pediatrician. If your health care professional cannot satisfactorily discuss these symptoms with you, including evidence that the professional has given thoughtful consideration to YOUR observations (in addition to his or her own), consider switching providers. Do not let insurance drive your decision. If the usual limited number of providers covered by your managed care plan is not satisfactory, go outside the plan if you can possibly afford it until you find someone you and your child like. Even if you have a satisfactory counselor, do not rely on the counselor’s judgment entirely. He or she may have the tools, but perhaps not the time. You know your child best and see that child every day. Trust your instincts until you are given a good reason why those instincts are in error.
It bears repeating: This is the counsel of a layman who lost a child to mental illness. As always, you should consult a professional if you suspect your child has a problem. This website can do no more than give you some information, some opinion based on personal experience, and invite others to share their information with you. You must check with your own research and professional consultations.
[Source note: These are summaries prepared by the Webmaster from various materials, the most important of which are the DSM IV (4th ed.), published by the American Psychiatric Association, and Bright Futures in Mental Health, a joint publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health at Georgetown University. Editorial comment is by the Webmaster.]
DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise indicated, all commentary and
information on this web site is provided by persons who have no
formal training in medicine or mental health. You should weigh the
information and comment on this site in consultation with a mental