Treatment of Children with Mental Illness

Research shows that half of all cases of mental illnesses that last a lifetime begin at 14 years. Scientists are discovering that changes in the body that lead to mental illness may begin much earlier, before any symptoms appear.


Research shows that half of all cases of mental illnesses that last a lifetime begin at 14 years. Scientists are discovering that changes in the body that lead to mental illness may begin much earlier, before any symptoms appear.

With a better understanding of when and how quickly specific brain areas develop children, we are learning more about the early stages of a wide variety of mental illnesses that appear later in life. Helping young children and their parents to overcome difficulties in the early years of life can prevent the development of disorders. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a normal part of your child’s behavior and is more difficult to treat. Although we know how to treat many disorders (although we can not cure them), many children with untreated mental illness.

In this newsletter you will find frequently asked questions about diagnosis and treatment options for children with mental illness. Among the disorders that affect children can be found anxiety disorders disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

What should I do if I am concerned about mental, behavioral or emotional symptoms of my child?

Talk to your doctor or provider of health care for your child. Ask questions and learn all you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you. If your child goes to school, ask your teacher if you have observed disturbing changes in behavior. Share this information with your doctor or provider of health care for your child. Note that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language and motor and social skills, this varies from child to child. Ask if they would need an experienced specialist in childhood behavioral problems will do more testing your child. Specialists can be psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and behavior therapists. Educators can also help evaluate your child.

If you take your child to a specialist, ask: “Do you have experience in dealing with the problems I see in my child?” Do not be afraid to consult more than one specialist to find one that suits. Continue following all you can about the problem or diagnosis. The more information you have, the better you can work with your child’s doctor and make decisions that seem right for you, for your child and your family.

How do I know if my child’s problems are serious?

Not all problems are serious. In fact, many of the daily stresses can cause changes in your child’s behavior. For example, the birth of a sibling (a) can cause a child to temporarily act as if it were smaller. It is important to distinguish between typical behavior changes and that are related to more serious problems. Pay special attention to behaviors such as:

  • Problems in different environments such as school, home or with peers.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep.
  • Social withdrawal or fearful behavior toward things that your child normally not afraid.
  • Repeating behaviors common in younger children as urinary incontinence in bed for a long time.
  • Signs of distress such as sadness or crying.
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior such as head banging or a tendency to get hurt often.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death.

The symptoms may be caused by the death of a relative, the illness of a parent, family financial problems, divorce or other events?

Yes. The tragedies or extreme stress can affect all members of a family, including young children. It is normal that stress causes discomfort in children. Remember this if perceived mental, emotional or behavioral symptoms in your child. If your child takes more than a month to adjust to a situation, or if your child has severe reactions, talk to your doctor.

Observe your child’s reaction to stress. Pay attention if it improves with time or need professional attention. Stressful events are a challenge, but give you the opportunity to teach your child how to cope important ways.

How are mental illnesses in young children are diagnosed?

As in adults, children with mental illnesses are diagnosed after a doctor or mental health specialist carefully observed signs and symptoms. Some primary care physicians can diagnose your child themselves, but most refer you to a specialist who can make a diagnosis and treatment in children.

Before diagnosing mental illness, the doctor or specialist will try to rule out other causes for your child’s behavior. The doctor will:

  • It will record the history of major medical problems.
  • It will record the history of the problem (how long the problem has been observed) and a history of your child’s development.
  • It will record family history of mental disorders.
  • It will ask if your child has experienced physical or psychological trauma, such as a natural disaster or situations that may cause stress, such as the death of a relative.
  • It will analyze the information provided by parents and other caregivers or teachers.

Very young children often can not express their thoughts and feelings; therefore, it can be challenging to diagnose. The signs of mental illness in young children can be very different from those that occur in older children or adults.

As parents and caregivers know, children constantly changing and growing. The diagnosis and treatment must be made taking into account these changes. While some problems are short-lived and do not require treatment, others may be constant and severe. Either way, a greater amount of information will help you understand treatment options and treat the disorder or problem more effectively.

Although the diagnosis of mental health problems in young children can be challenging, it is important to do. The diagnosis can be useful to guide treatment and link your child’s attention with research in children with similar problems.

My son will improve over time?

Some children get better with time, but others need ongoing professional help. Talk to your doctor or your child about problems that are serious, continuous and affect daily activities. Also, do not delay seeking help, since treatment can produce better results if started early.

Are there treatment options for children?

Yes. After making a diagnosis, the child specialist will recommend a specific treatment. It is important to understand the various treatment options usually include psychotherapy or medication. Discuss the options with a health care professional who is experienced in treating the disease seen in your child. Some treatment options have been studied experimentally and other treatments are part of medical practice. Moreover, not all communities have all types of services or programs.

What are psychotropic medications?

Psychotropic drugs are substances that affect brain chemicals related to mood and behavior. In recent years, research has been conducted to understand the benefits and risks of using psychotropic drugs in children. However, they need to learn more about the effects of psychotropic drugs, especially in children under six. As investigators try to determine how early treatment affects the body growing, families and doctors should consider the benefits and risks of medicines. Each child has individual needs and every child needs to be closely monitored while taking medication.

Are there other treatments besides medication?

Yes. The psychosocial therapies can be very effective alone and in combination with medication. Psychosocial therapies, also called “talk therapies” or “behavioral therapy” can help people with mental illness to change behavior. Therapies that teach coping strategies to parents and children can also be efectivas.2

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be used with children. It has been widely studied and is an effective treatment for various conditions such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety. A person in CBT learns to change patterns of distorted thinking and unhealthy behaviors. Children may receive CBT with or without their parents and in groups. CBT can be adapted to meet the needs of each child. Is especially useful for treating disorders ansiedad.3

In addition, therapies for ADHD are numerous and include behavioral parent training and behavior management in the classroom. For more information about therapies for ADHD, visit the NIMH website.

Some children benefit from a combination of different psychosocial approaches. An example is the training on behavior management for parents with CBT for children. In other cases, it may be more effective psychosocial drug combination therapies. Psychosocial therapies often take time, effort and patience. However, sometimes children learn new skills that can have positive long-term benefits.

For more information about treatment options see the sections of psychotherapy and medication NIMH website.

When is it appropriate to use psychotropic medications in young children?

May be prescribed psychotropic medications when the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. Some children need medication to control serious and difficult problems. Without treatment, these children suffer serious and dangerous consequences. It is also possible that psychosocial treatments not always be effective by themselves. In some cases, however, they can be quite effective when combined with the drugs.

Consult your doctor about the risks that your child may have to start and continue with these drugs. Learn all you can about the medicines your child is prescribed and possible side effects, some of which may be harmful. Know how to act a particular treatment, for example, will it change a specific behavior? Failure to observe these changes while your child is taking medications, talk to your doctor. Also, discuss with your doctor the risks of stopping your medications.

Medications affect young children differently from older children or adults?

Yes. Young children absorb drugs differently than do older children and adults. The brains of young children changes and develops quickly. Studies have shown that developing brains may be very sensitive to medications. There are also developmental differences in how children metabolize drugs (how they are processed by the body). Therefore, physicians should carefully analyze the dose or amount of drug that is given to each child. Is a need for more research to determine the effects and benefits of medicines in children of all ages. But you must remember that severe mental disorders are not treated can damage brain development.

It is also important to avoid drug interactions. If your child takes medicine for asthma or cold, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Drug interactions may cause the drugs not work as intended or cause serious side effects.

How drugs should be included in the overall treatment plan?

Drugs should be used with other treatments and should not be the only treatment. Consider other services such as family therapy, family support services, educational classes and techniques of behavior management. If your physician prescribes medication, it must evaluate your child regularly to ensure that the drugs are working. Children need treatment plans that suit their individual problems and needs.

What drugs are used for what types of mental disorders in childhood?

Psychotropic drugs include stimulant medications, antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. The dose approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States for use by children, depend on body weight and age. The NIMH medications booklet describes the types of psychotropic medications and includes a table indicating the age for which the FDA approves each drug. For the latest information on approved drugs, warnings and patient information guides, visit the FDA Website.

What if a drug is specifically approved for use in children?

If the FDA approves a drug, it means that the manufacturer provided information to the agency, showing that the drug is safe and effective for a group of people in particular. Based on this information, the drug’s label indicates the proper dosage, potential side effects, and approved age. The drugs approved for children meet these guidelines.

Many psychotropic drugs have not been studied in children, which means they have not been approved by the FDA for use in children. However, doctors can prescribe drugs they consider appropriate, even if those uses are not included in the label. This is called “off-label” use. Research shows that the use not specified on the label of some drugs is suitable for some children. For other drugs, should conduct more studies in children. Especially not been adequately studied the use of most psychotropic medications in preschoolers.

Further studies should be conducted in children before they can accurately determine the proper dose, how a drug works in children and what effects it can have on learning and development.

Why they have not tried many medications in children?

Previously, drugs are rarely studied in children because mental illness were not recognized in childhood. In addition, there were ethical on the inclusion of children in research issues, all this led to a lack of knowledge about most appropriate treatments for children. Today, in the clinical setting, children with mental or behavioral disorders are prescribed drugs at ever younger ages. The FDA has urged that drugs be studied adequately in children, and in 1997, Congress passed legislation to provide incentives for drug manufacturers to carry out such tests. These activities have helped increase research on the effects of medicines in children.

There are still ethical questions about drug testing in children. However, there are strict rules that protect participants in research studies. Each study must go through different types of reviews before and after it starts.

How can I work with my child’s school?

If your child is having trouble in school, or if the teacher poses a problem, you can work with the school to find a solution. You can ask the school to conduct an assessment to determine if your child qualifies for special education services. However, not all children who are diagnosed with a mental illness are eligible for these services.

To begin, talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor, the school nurse or the parent organization of the school. These professionals can help you get started with evaluation. In addition, all states have a Training Center Parent Information and Protection and Advocacy Agency that can help you apply the evaluation. The assessment must be conducted by a team of professionals to evaluate all the possible areas related disabilities through a variety of instruments and measures.

What resources does the school?

Once your child has been evaluated several options for him or her depending on their specific needs. If special education services are needed and if your child meets the requirements under the Education Act Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the school district must create an “individualized education program” specifically for your child over a period of 30 days .

If your child does not qualify for special education services, he or she is entitled to receive a “free appropriate public education,” available for all children who attend public schools and those with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Your child is entitled to receive it regardless of the nature or severity of their disability.

The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education EEUU. It requires compliance with Section 504 programs and activities that receive federal funds for education. For more information about Section 504.

What challenges can present particular school?

In schools, every year there are new teachers and new school activities. This change can be difficult for some children. When your child starts school or pass grade teachers report that he or she has a mental illness. Additional support will help your child adjust to the changes.

What can I do to help my child?

Children with mental illness need to be understood and guided by their parents and teachers. This support can help your child fully develop their potential and succeed in school. Before a child is diagnosed, it is possible that frustration, guilt and anger may have accumulated in the family. Parents and children may need special help to repair these patterns of interaction that are not healthy. The mental health professionals can counsel the child and the family so that everyone can develop new skills, attitudes and ways of relating to each other.

Parents can also help by participating in parent training. This helps parents to learn how to deal with difficult situations and behaviors. The training encourages parents to share pleasurable or relaxing activities with their children, to observe and note praising the virtues and strengths and skills of their children. Parents may also learn to guide the family situations in a more positive way. In addition, parents can benefit from learning stress management techniques to help them cope with frustration and respond calmly to the conduct of his son.

Sometimes, you may need advice entire family. Therapists can help family members to seek better ways to deal with negative behaviors and motivate behavior change. Finally, support groups help parents and families connect with others who have similar problems and concerns. The groups meet regularly to share frustrations and successes, to exchange information on specialists and recommended strategies, and talk to experts.

How they can receive support families of children with mental illness?

Like other serious illnesses, parents, family and other caregivers have difficulty caring for children with mental illness. Caregivers often must face the medical needs of their loved ones and also faced the way these affect their health needs. Due to the stress experienced by caregivers, they may be missing work or lose some of your free time. This can hurt your relationships with other people who do not understand the situation and lead to physical and mental exhaustion.

The stress caused by being in charge of caring for your child can make it harder to cope with their symptoms. One study showed that if a caregiver is under stress, your loved one has more difficulty adhering to treatment.4 plan is important to look after your own physical and mental health. It may also be helpful to join a local support group.

article from National Institute of Mental Health

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