Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children with ADHD show inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity more frequently and severely than children of the same age or developmental level. ADHD occurs in 4-7% of school aged children and can run in families. A child with ADHD may also have other psychiatric disorders such as conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or learning disabilities. Without proper treatment, the child will have difficulty paying attention in class, completing schoolwork and may be at risk of earning poor grades. Teachers and families who do not recognize these difficulties may label the child as "lazy" or "bored". The symptoms of ADHD in childhood can continue into adulthood, especially if left untreated.
Depression often comes with a profound sadness about oneself and life. Basic functions such as sleep, attention, appetite, and energy can be so impaired that daily activities become painful to tolerate. Similar to adults, children and teenagers can experience depression. About 5 percent of children and adolescents suffer from depression, but the behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults. The child and teenager may complain of boredom, become very irritable or complain of frequent headaches and stomachaches. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs to cope with their feelings. The good news is that depression can be successfully treated.
Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic-Depressive Illness) consists of fluctuations between high, low, or irritable moods. Some people may have mostly depression; others may present with a combination of manic and depressive symptoms. Manic symptoms include severe mood swings, unrealistic or grandiose self-esteem, excessive energy leading to lack of sleep, and rapid speech and movement. Bipolar Disorder can begin in childhood and during the teenage years, although it is usually diagnosed in adult life. The diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children and teenagers is complex and involves careful observation over an extended period of time.
Anxiety disorders are common and often accompany depression in adults. It manifests itself as repeated worries and concerns about the future. If untreated, anxiety disorders can lead to, or worsen existing depression. Children and teenagers often express anxiety through physical complaints such as headaches and stomach upset, become irritable and have tantrums. They may also act "clingy" or refuse to go to school. Forms of anxiety include specific phobias, separation anxiety, social anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Psychosis describes strange thinking, feelings, perceptions and unusual behavior. Psychosis can develop for many reasons - for example, drug abuse, severe depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. Psychosis is more common in adults. Children may experience visual and auditory hallucinations. Although this phenomena is more likely due to their imagination, immature cognitive development, anxiety or depression rather than a serious psychotic episode. Most of the time, psychotic symptoms resolve. A more serious illness of chronic and persistent psychosis is schizophrenia, which is very rare in children.
Autism/Asperger's Disorder/Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Most infants and young children are very social - they need, desire, and seek out contact with others to thrive and grow. They smile, cuddle, laugh, and respond eagerly to games like "peek-a-boo" or "hide-and-seek." Occasionally, however, a child does not interact in this manner. Instead, the child appears to exist in his or her own world, a place characterized by repetitive routines, odd and peculiar behaviors, problems in communication, and a complete lack of awareness/interest in others. These are characteristics of a developmental disorder called autism.
The severity of autism varies widely, from mild to severe. Some children are very bright and do well in school, although they have problems with adjusting to new environments. Occasionally, a child with autism may be very talented in art, music or another area. Autism is usually identified by the time a child is three years old. There is no "cure" for autism. Therapy can improve a child's social skills and ability to adapt. It is important that if a child with autism develops another emotional or behavioral problem, such as depression or anxiety, that it is treated with therapy and/or medications.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by recurrent, intense obsessions and/or compulsions that cause severe distress and interfere with daily functioning. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood and has been estimated to occur in 1 of 200 children and adolescents. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are unwanted and cause significant anxiety. Frequently, they are unrealistic or irrational. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals (like hand washing, hoarding, keeping things in order, checking something over and over) or mental acts (like counting or repeating words silently). Obsessions or compulsions in children can cause significant stress or interfere with the child's normal routine, schoolwork, social activities, and/or relationships.