Depression

Updated 11 January 2017

3 mental disorders that may affect your children

As the new year begins and children are heading off to school or university, it’s vital that you recognise the warning signs of mental disorders.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness conducted research on mental health on American college campuses and results were frightening. One in four students has a diagnosable illness and 40% refuse to get help. A staggering 80% of students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, while 50% say they have been so anxious that they’ve struggled academically. 

Mental illness can affect anyone at any age. Be prepared to handle the illness by understanding the warning signs. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain signs you should look out for, especially when it comes to mental illness in children and teens:

• Mood and behaviour changes
• Unexplained weight loss 
• Any difficulty concentrating
• Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches
• Physical harm through self-injury or self-harm

1. Depression

Although depression can be treated and managed, it’s important to note that the behaviour of depressed children and teenagers can differ from adults. 

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says if your child or teen displays any of these signs, you should get help: persistent boredom, low energy, social isolation, extreme sensitivity to rejection, a major change in eating or sleeping habits, talk of or efforts to run away and poor concentration. 

Read: Two thirds of depressed teens may benefit from therapy 

2. Anxiety

We all experience some form of anxiety and stress in our lives at some stage. However, an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the anxiety starts to affect your daily life. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that anxiety disorders are the most common of mental illness in the US and affect one in eight children.

Unfortunately, if left untreated, anxiety in children can lead to poor performance at school, missing out on important social experiences and a risk of substance abuse. 

Read: What are anxiety disorders? 

3. Eating disorders

Many college students (male and female) develop eating disorders and don’t get help. According to SADAG: “Eating disorders are extreme behaviours, emotions and attitudes that revolve around food and weight issues. These disorders cause serious mental and physical problems that can result in life-threatening issues when left untreated.”

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders says that young Americans between 12 and 25 represent 95% of those with eating disorders and anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents. 

Read: When a healthy diet becomes unhealthy 

Mental illness should always be taken seriously. If you suspect your child or loved one is suffering from a disorder, make sure you seek help. 

Read more:

Depression strikes 3 million US teens a year

Excessive sweating linked to anxiety and depression

Pets a great help to people with depression

Sources: 

SADAG

Mayo Clinic

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 

National Alliance of Mental Illness

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Pyschiatry

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

 

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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