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What is a Childhood Psychiatric Disorder?

What is a Child Psychiatric Disorder?

Psychiatric disorder refers to a mental disorder or illness that changes the way a person behaves, interacts with others and functions in daily life. These disorders are more commonly known as mental health disorders or mental health illnesses. Children can suffer from the following:

  • Anxiety Disorder: Causing them to fear or dread certain activities. They may show signs of nervousness such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating.
  • Disruptive Behavior Disorder: When they tend to defy rules more than normal and are often disruptive in structured environments.
  • Pervasive Development Disorder: This may cause confusion and will generally have problems understanding their surroundings.
  • Eating Disorder: Involves intense emotions, attitudes and unusual behaviors associated with weight or food.
  • Elimination Disorder: Causes an adverse behavior toward the elimination of body waste.
  • Affective Mood Disorder: Persistent feelings of sadness or rapidly changing moods.
  • Schizophrenia: This can cause distorted perceptions and thoughts.
  • Tic Disorder: This can cause one to perform repeated, sudden, involuntary and sometimes meaningless movements and sounds.

Some of these disorders can be carried over into adulthood; however, some may begin as adults.


Symptoms vary depending on the type of mental health Illness. Some of the general symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Changes in school performance, such as poor grades.
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Unable to cope with daily problems and activities.
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits.
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments.
  • Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Long-lasting negative moods, sometimes accompanied by poor appetite and thoughts of death.
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities they usually enjoy.
  • Dramatic increase of time spent alone.

If your child is experiencing one or all of these, you may want to speak to a medical or mental health professional.

Psychiatric Disorders Causes

Research suggests it could be a combination of different causes.

  • Heredity: Most times, mental illness runs in families.
  • Biology: If the neurotransmitters in the brain are not balanced or working properly, messages may not make it to the brain correctly and lead to symptoms.
  • Psychological Trauma: Abuse, neglect and/or death of a close friend or family member can trigger this.
  • Environmental Stress: This can be caused by stressful or traumatic events.


It is more difficult to diagnose mental illness in a child because the behaviors may also be a natural part of the their development. However, behaviors become symptoms when they occur often, last a long time and happen at an unusual age or cause significant disruption in the ability to function. If no physical illness is found after running tests, the child may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist. The doctor bases the diagnoses on reports of the symptoms as well as observing his/her attitude and behavior.


Often times, mental illnesses can be effectively treated with the combination of therapy and prescribed drugs. The following can be effective:

  • Medication: The medication used to treat mental disorders in children include antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, stimulants and mood stabilizers.
  • Psychotherapy: Counseling addresses the emotional response to mental illness. This process involves a trained professional. They will help your child deal with their disorder by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their symptoms.
  • Creative Therapies: Art or play therapy may be most effective with younger children who have a hard time communicating their thoughts and feelings.

Coping with Your Child’s Psychiatric Disorder

Having a child with a mental health disorder can be a challenge, but there are ways to make it easier on you, your child and your family. Every year one in five children ages 13-18 are diagnosed with a mental health condition. Here are some tips on how you can continue to help your child:

  • Research. In addition to seeking help from mental healthcare professionals, educate yourself as much as possible on your child’s condition. There are educational classes for parents and other family caregivers that teach how to cope and manage the recovery.
  • Speak with the school. Ensure they are receiving the proper care and education. Without assistance, school can be difficult, leading to frustration and stress. Fortunately, the law requires schools to provide the appropriate services and accommodations to children with a mental health disorder.
  • ”Find a new normal.” Remain respectful and understanding to your child’s feelings, avoiding becoming angry for behaviors they cannot control. However, maintain consistent discipline for unacceptable actions with consideration of your child’s health.

Mental health illness is a common but hard to diagnosis condition. There are many behaviors and actions that could be considered normal depending on one’s age. To learn more on Child Psychiatric Disorders, ask Medical Experts with years of experience today. 

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