Psychological Issues and Mental Illness

An Overview

Psychological and social problems, particularly involving behavior and school issues, are more common during adolescence than at any other time during childhood. Adolescents are much more independent and mobile and are often out of the direct control of adults. When misbehavior becomes severe and frequent, adolescents should be evaluated for a psychosocial disorder by a mental health professional. In particular, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are common during adolescence. Adolescents who have psychosocial problems, anxiety, or depression may have physical symptoms such as fatigue or chronic fatigue, dizziness, headache, and abdominal or chest pain.

Depression is common among adolescents, and doctors actively screen for it during examinations. Suicide is rare, but thoughts about suicide (called suicidal ideation) are more common. Suicidal ideation may go unnoticed, but, once it is noticed, the adolescent should receive a mental health evaluation.

Anxiety often manifests during adolescence, as do mood disorders and disruptive behavioral disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. Thought disorders (Psychosis) most commonly begin during adolescence or early adulthood. The first episode of psychosis is called a psychotic break.

Eating disordersespecially in girls, are common. Some adolescents go to extraordinary lengths to hide symptoms of an eating disorder.

Doctors can often identify these problems. They can offer adolescents practical advice and, when appropriate, encourage adolescents to accept treatment provided by specialists.

Although it is sometimes assumed that childhood and adolescence are times of carefree bliss, as many as 20% of children and adolescents have one or more diagnosable mental disorders. Most of these disorders may be viewed as exaggerations or distortions of normal behaviors and emotions.

Like adults, children and adolescents vary in temperament. Some are shy and reticent; others are socially exuberant. Some are methodical and cautious; others are impulsive and careless. Whether a child is behaving like a typical child or has a disorder is determined by the presence of impairment and the degree of distress related to the symptoms. For example, a 12-yr-old girl may be frightened by the prospect of delivering a book report in front of her class. This fear would be viewed as social anxiety disorder only if her fears were severe enough to cause significant distress and avoidance.

There is much overlap between the symptoms of many disorders and the challenging behaviors and emotions of normal children. Thus, many strategies useful for managing behavioral problems in children can also be used in children who have mental disorders. Furthermore, appropriate management of childhood behavioral problems may decrease the risk of temperamentally vulnerable children developing a full-blown disorder. Also, effective treatment of some disorders (eg, anxiety) during childhood may decrease the risk of mood disorders later in life.

Like adults, children and teens can sometimes experience intense emotions as they get older or go through stressful or traumatic events in their lives. For example, it is common for children to feel anxious about school or friendships, or for teens to have short periods of depression after a death in the family.

About the cause of mental disorders or psychological issues in children, research suggests that a combination of factors, including heredity, biology, psychological trauma, and environmental stress might be involved.

  1. Psychological Trauma – some mental disorders might be triggered by psychological trauma, such as severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; an important early loss, such as the loss of a parent; and neglect.
  2. Environmental Stress – stressful or traumatic events like domestic violence can trigger a disorder in a person with a vulnerability to a mental disorder

Many psychological disorders first diagnosed in children involve physiological and/or genetic components. However, there are many other psychological disorders found in children without any physical causes. Disorders caused by physiological or biological problems are more likely to be identified early in life, but some of these problems are not identified until adulthood.


Types of Psychological issues in Children & Adolescents: