Childhood Psychiatric Disorders
Not an Ill-Behaved Child

Childhood psychiatric disorders or is my child falling short of good parenting?
No! Please stop blaming yourself and your child.
May be the child needs help rather than the punishments.
Emotional and behavioural disabilities are common child health problems. Its incidence is as high as 10-20 percent.

Due to lack of awareness, majority of these children never reach specialist child-psychiatric services.

Consequently, they lose their precious years of learning and development. This results in permanent mental health disabilities in children.

Childhood psychiatric disorders do not conform to strict medical illness model. They are deviations from the normal cognitive development.

The resultant mental health leads to social maladjustment of the affected children and teenagers. Some psychiatric disturbances of childhood, like Autism, have major implementations for childhood development and adaptation in adult life.

Hurdles in management of childhood psychiatric disorders

  • Existing community bias associated with mental health.

    Psychiatrization of emotional-behavioural problems of young children and teenagers has been shunned away for a long time.

    Besides, many spurious interests endanger an unbiased, objective approach to normal developmental issues and tend to unduly put many problems of normal living in the basket of mental disorders.

  • Distinction between disturbances and normality is often imprecise in childhood psychiatric disorders.

    Isolated deviated behavior presentation is common during childhood and can not be considered as a symptom of compromised mental health: For example; it is normal for children to be episodically sad, unhappy or have a temper tantrum, that does not make them disturbed or maladjusted.

Parents therefore need to take the reins in their own hands:

  • Educate themselves on the subject.

  • Without any bias seek authentic specialized professional help
    as and when need arises.

  • Do not let any prevalent stigma associated with psychiatric disorders be a barrier in your child’s mental health care.

Why are children prone to psychiatric disorders?

  • Childhood is the period of changes, challenges, and compelling necessities for adaptation.

    The child growth process and motor skills development accomplishes children to meet the ever rising expectations of their environment. So, is it surprising that some behavioural disturbances do surface when the demands get too much for the child?

  • Children have situation specific behavior and each situation imposes its own expectation.

    1. Their behavior therefore varies markedly from time to time
    depending on the environmental challenges.

    2. Moreover, children usually do not have the same capacity to
    cope with all type of stresses and so their behavior varies.

  • Children are often misunderstood and rejected.

    The above mentioned factors lead to discrepancy in evaluation of child’s behavior by different social group like teachers, neighbours and parents. who often misunderstand and reject them.

Predisposing factors of childhood psychiatric disorders

As in normal growth and development both constitutional and environmental factors play role in the development of childhood psychiatric disorders.

Constitutional Factors

Environmental Influences

Influences of the family on mental health of children

The family is the most potent force for promotion of child health; and for development of disturbances in a child’s emotional and behavioral development. We can not influence the school or the community, but we certainly can make the environment at home healthy for our children.

Types of family stress that leads to disturbed children

Factors like birth of a sibling, or starting at school are of course inevitable stress that a child should normally be able to cope with.

The major current stressful circumstances in the family leave long lasting impact on child’s mental health:

Parents suffering from depression

Parents under stress; financial, sickness, professional dissatisfaction, emotional insecurity and so on, fail to have quality interaction with the children. Their feelings of general dissatisfaction and / or apprehension are unknowingly passed on to the growing children in the family.

Parenting with depression often results in ineffective parenting with ill effect on child’s psychological development.

Stressful environment in the family should be resolved

If need be with the help of a professional consular should be sought for at the earliest. The disturbed child and sometimes parents themselves or even the whole family may need help.

Why are disturbed children often misunderstood?

Disturbed children do not express their distress

Most children try to cope with the stress on their own accord. If they succeed in their efforts it enhances their self esteem, but if they do not then they are overwhelmed.

Children do not even want to admit the problem

Most children do not admit that they are facing any problem, not even on direct interrogation.

  • They often do not apprehend that their is a problem.

  • They are not expected to differ fro the prevalent behavior norms of the society.

  • Children do not discuss the stressful problems at home with any one.

  • Talking about peer pressure and sibling rivalry is taken as disloyalty towards peers and siblings.

  • Telling their problems could amount to telling tales, which is discouraged by all the adults in their environment.

  • Inability to own faults as a normal psychological instinct along with bruised self-esteem projects disturbed children as "liars".

  • Disturbed children's silence is often misunderstood for their stubbornness and deviant behavior.

  • Resultant isolation only worsens their situation.

Disturbed children face isolation

Disturbed children when misunderstood by people in their environment take solace in isolation, which only worsens their mental health:
Childhood depression being the commonest consequence. In modern era, these children can also fall prey to cyber bullying and sexting.

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Signs of oncoming childhood psychiatric disorders

  • Frequent stomach pain with no sickness detected
  • Persistent sadness
  • Generalized disinterest
  • Withdrawal
  • Poor interaction with peer group
  • Increasing aggressive behaviour

Resolve the mounting stress in yourself and your child as early as possible.

  • Lack of attention towards the mental health of children and adolescents may lead to childhood psychiatric disorders with lifelong consequences.

  • It can also undermine compliance with health regimens and reduces child’s capacity for safe and productive life.

The 3 groups of childhood psychiatric disorders

  • Emotional

  • Behavioral

  • Social (Relationships)

Rule out childhood psychiatric disorders in disturbed child

  • Inappropriate behavior for age.

  • Combinations of several predisposing factors contribute to development of disorders.

  • Regressive behavior: Behaves developmentally immature.

  • Abnormal behavior episodes.
    Number, frequency, severity and duration of symptoms rather than the form of symptoms indicate the possibility of a disturbed child.

  • Hallucinations and delusions like definite pathological symptoms are seldom seen in children.

  • Developmental deficit.
    For example: A child with enuresis would be said to have not attained the skills necessary to use the toilet.

  • Developmental excess.
    For example: An aggressive child would be evaluated as showing disproportionately excessive assertive behaviour in relation to the situation.

  • Anxiety in excess.
    All children experience anxiety as a part of the growing process, but anxiety that prevents the child from coping with normal stress in his environment will be considered as "anxiety in excess".
    Childhood development is the result of coping with external threats and strange situations.

  • Denial is a psychological defence mechanism, and is Normal to a great extent.
    Child is unable to accept the psychological impact of a particular action or event for the fear of resultant loss of self esteem.
    Overwhelming guilt makes it impossible for the child to own even the most obvious wrong act committed.

  • Rationalization is children’s Normal way to deal with a failure.
    They justify the psychological consequence of an unsuccessful event:
    “The grapes are sour” philosophy.
    It can be overcome by positive reinforcement to build child's self-esteem and consequently, the capability to take challanges.

  • Displacement is transfer of hostile feelings from their original source onto another person.
    For example; getting angry with a sibling instead of the parents.

  • Impaired social relationship.
    a.) Primary failure, as seen in Autism.
    b.) Secondary phenomenon, is more commonly seen.

  • Conduct disorder leads to isolation of the affected children.
    These children get unpopular with their peer group, usually because they themselves do not mix with them.

  • Excluded by the peer group due to deviant behaviour.
    A child’s whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

    Deviant behavior in children is also a frequent cause of conflict between them and their adult contacts, such as parents and teachers.

However, to be able to distinguish normal behavior during childhood psychosocial development from childhood psychiatric disorder, it is also important to understand child psychology involved in personality development.

If there is a predisposition to psychic disturbance in the family, also look in the biotechnology today that sparks gene therapy. (Opens new window)

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