Adults who experience mental health issues have a common denominator: traumatic experiences during early childhood. When a child goes through emotional stress during childhood — parents getting divorced, physical violence, or unhealthy family relationships, this will affect their lives as they grow old. 

A child’s mental health is crucial for their physical, emotional, and social growth. When children and adolescents do not get the mental health attention they need, it may affect their school performance, peer relationships, and even their physiological health. It is best to seek help from a child psychiatrist as soon as possible.

What Is Child and Adolescent Psychiatry?

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) defines child and adolescent psychiatry as the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, behavioral, and mental disorders in children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are doctors and medical professionals responsible for providing comprehensive mental health care for children, adolescents, and their families.

Child and adolescent psychiatry are primarily focused on treating a child’s mental health problems evolving around their development at home, school, family, and community. Some parents or primary caregivers may not be aware of this, but the mental health problem of a child roots from poor family relationships.

In general, if a child is exposed to abusive relationships, traumatic experiences, chronic neglect, or a harmful environment, a child psychiatrist needs to intervene to help the child grow as a functional adult. 

dad comforting his child with a mental illness

What Is the Most Common Mental Health Disorder During Childhood?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has alarming findings regarding child and adolescent mental health issues. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for teenagers aged 15 to 19? And that depression is one of the leading causative factors that lead to physical disability or illness of an adolescent? 

What’s unfortunate is half of these mental health conditions remain undetected, which results in dysfunctional adulthood for these children. In general, the solution for early detection is information dissemination among parents and primary caregivers. When in doubt, always seek help from a certified child psychiatrist. No one knows better than a child psychiatrist when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of a mental illness. 

Here are some of the most common mental health disorders during childhood and adolescence:

Common Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Autism is a neurological condition that can be detected early as three years old. Children with autism struggle with interacting and communicating with others. 
  • Anxiety disorders (Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety): A child with an anxiety disorder experience persistent anxiety, worry, and fear. This can negatively affect their age-appropriate social-interactions.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): In general, children with ADHD have impulsive behaviors, difficulty paying attention, and hyperactivity compared to other children their age. 
  • Eating disorders (Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorders): Eating disorders are common in adolescents, especially teenage girls. This is caused by the dysfunctional perception of the ideal body type and weight loss resulting in unsafe dieting habits. These mental health conditions can result in life-threatening physical conditions.
  • Depression and other mood disorders (Bipolar Disorder): A child going through depression appears sad all the time and loses interest in play or school activities. Depression may lead to a bipolar disorder where a child has extreme mood swings or tantrums that may harm them or other people in their surroundings. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): In PTSD, a child experiences prolonged anxiety, emotional distress, nightmares, distressing memories, flashback of traumatic events, and disruptive behaviors. This is caused by exposure of the child to abuse, violence, traumatic events, or injury. 
  • Schizophrenia: This is a mental illness where the child experiences psychosis (lost in touch with reality). This often appears in the late teenage years manifested by delusion, hallucinations, and odd behaviors.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): A child with Obsessive-compulsive disorder may exhibit frequent compulsive rituals and strong obsessive thoughts that affect their growth and development as shown in their activities of daily living. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is common in teenagers. 

Related: Can Online Counseling Help My Anxiety?

What Is the Difference Between a Child Psychologist & Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists?

There is a big difference between a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist. First off, child and adolescent psychiatrists are medical doctors that diagnose a mental illness and prescribe treatment, including medications, to psychiatric patients. A child psychiatrist handles complex mental health conditions for children and their families. This includes family therapy, behavioral therapy, an individualized plan of care for the growth and development of a child, treatment with prescribed medication, or other medical procedures. 

On the other hand, a child psychologist is a mental health professional but is not a medical doctor and cannot prescribe medication. Child psychologists are mostly focused on talk therapy or psychotherapy. 

When Should My Child See a Child Psychiatrist?

There are many behavioral signs when a child can benefit from the clinical mental health services of a child and adolescent psychiatrist. You must observe if there are changes in the child’s behavior for the past six months. If the child is not acting appropriately according to their age, is exhibiting signs of depression, anxiety, and anger, it is best to seek treatment in a child and adolescent psychiatry clinic. 

If a child is going through a significant change in life like parents divorcing, death of a loved one, or a traumatic incident, they will need emotional support from the family and health services of a child psychiatrist. 

Bottom line: How Can a Child Psychiatrist Help My Child?

A child psychiatrist is a valuable medical health provider for your child’s mental wellness. A child psychiatrist will develop a treatment plan for your child and family for any type of mental condition. Early detection is the key to ensure the mental wellness of your child. 

A child psychiatrist has the proper training and academic proficiency in managing the mental health of children and teenagers. The child and the whole family will benefit from the treatment prescribed by a child psychiatrist. The treatment goals are better family relationships, better coping mechanisms growing up, better performance at school, and hopefully, become a valuable part of the community. 

If consulting face-to-face with a child psychiatrist is a struggle for you, you can always try online psychiatry services. Kentucky Counseling Center now offers online psychiatry services for children and adolescents from the comfort of their homes using a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. A mental illness is not a ‘phase’ or it doesn’t ‘go away on its own’ book a consultation now and get the help your children need. 

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