Childhood psychological disorders can often be overlooked because a lot of people see childhood as a simple and carefree time without stress. Childhood disorders may even go undiagnosed because the parents
or guardians will just label the child as being a “brat”, “bad seed”, “baby”, or “whiner”. They may even accuse the child of making things up or being a faker. When people DO admit that the child has a disorder, they often assume that the disorder is simply a miniature version of the adult disorder, and that it’s not as serious. The truth is that the disorders can be as debilitating, or even more debilitating to a child.
One disorder that primarily affects children is Separation Anxiety Disorder. This disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety when separated from their home or caregiver. It can be so severe that the child refuses to leave home or let an adult out of their sight. In order to stay home, the child may experience or complain of physical symptoms, such as stomachaches or headaches. This disorder may develop if the child’s parents have a divorce, after moving to a new place, after a prolonged illness in the child or a family member, or after a death in the family.
Another disorder that is very serious in children is Childhood Depression. Childhood Depression can be characterized by sadness, hopelessness, guilt fatigue, low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, bad concentration, excessive crying, outbursts, antisocial behavior, and unexplainable aches. Children from all social classes can suffer from Depression. In severe cases, Childhood Depression can lead to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for children between the ages of eight and thirteen. Family environment, as well as genetics, can cause this disorder.
An extremely serious, and often undiagnosed, disorder is Conduct Disorder. This disorder can be characterized by repeat aggressive behavior, fire starting, bullying, vandalizing, breaking and entering, theft, running away, and skipping school. It affects between eight and ten percent of males, and two to five percent of females, and can go undiagnosed because a lot of people see the kids as bad kids. When people stop believing that the children can be good, the children will stop believing it too, and the disorder will progress even further.
A disorder that is similar to, but less severe than, Conduct Disorder is Oppositional Defiance Disorder. This is characterized by blaming others when mistakes are made, unwillingness to compromise, defiance of adult authority, and stubbornness. The onset of this disorder is gradual, and starts with very mild symptoms, but if left undiagnosed it can escalate to the severity of conduct disorder. This may lead to behavior later in life that can lead to arrest, injury, or death.
On the other side of the diagnostic spectrum is Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorder. This is a very well known condition that is one the most overdiagnosed disorders ever. Signs of this disorder may be; inattention, problems in school, forgetfulness, disorganization, impulse behavior, and compulsive speaking. It’s estimated that about three to five percent of school aged children are affected, and that most of that number are boys. It could be caused by a combination of heredity and environmental problems.
Eating disorders are also found in children, but they tend to differ from the eating disorders found in teenagers and adults. One such disorder is Pica, which causes the child to eat non-foods, like paper, coins, and dirt, for more than one month. Rumination is another eating disorder that causes the child to regurgitate and rechew their food. These eating disorders can be caused by abuse, depression, or use of drugs.
Phobias can affect anyone, but in children they can be particularly bad for two reasons. One is that the child can not express their fear through words in the same way that an adult can because they may not have the correct vocabulary to do so. Another reason is that people tend to confuse a childs phobias with common, “normal”, childhood fears. The difference between phobias and fears, is that fears can usually be outgrown with little, or more commonly, no type of treatment, whereas phobias cannot just disappear or be outgrown. Phobias may be characterized by a fear that is so severe that it interrupts daily life. For example, a child may be so scared of something that they refuse to leave their room or home in the fear that they may come in contact with what they are afraid of.
There are also disorders that affect children, but are usually not diagnosed until the teen or adult years. Manic depression is one such disorder, and it can cause very extreme mood swings. Another disorder is Schizophrenia, which can cause delusions, hallucinations, social withdrawal, and disordered thinking. Tourette’s syndrome is another, and it can cause repeated involuntary movement and uncontrollable vocal tics.
Finally, there are some disorders that affect children that don’t fit the critera for any named disorder. This is what doctors call Child Disorder NOS. The symptoms can be anything from signs of phobia to conduct disorder, but there’s either not enough symptoms to diagnose a certain disorder, or there’s a behavioral anomaly that would not be present in the disorder.
Childhood is not always a simple, carefree time without stress. There are children that live with disorders that can be so stressful that it leads them to violence or suicide. These disorders cause them emotional and mental stress that may affect them all the way through their lives.