Recognizing the signs
All children may experience problems with their mood or behavior from time to time. In some cases, these problems may be a normal part of a child's stage of development. In other cases, behavioral or emotional problems may be understandable reactions to a change in a child's environment or routine, such as sadness after the divorce of parents or the death of someone close to them.
When a child's problems persist over a long period of time or begin to interfere with relationships, performance at school or everyday living, these may be signs of a mental health disorder. Many people are surprised to learn that mental health problems are relatively common among young people – in fact, they are as common as a fractured limb.
The path to improved health often begins with a family's awareness of concerning behaviors, which may include:
- Overactivity or difficulty paying attention
- Anxiety, worry or fear
- Sadness and depression
- Problems with food or body image
- Extreme anger, aggression or defiance
- Tendency to use drugs or alcohol
- Unusual thoughts or experiences