If your child or adolescent is struggling in school, acting out, rebellious, inattentive, sad and lonely, forgetful, disorganized, or hanging out with the wrong crowd, you may think it’s just normal growing pains and hope they will grow out of it. Many kids and teens do grow out of troublesome behavior and emotional problems, but not all of them do. When your child or adolescent’s troubling symptoms and behaviors persist and negatively impact their schoolwork, friendships, and home life, it’s time to seek help.
It can be difficult for parents to know if the problems your children are having are just a phase or if they’re signs of something more serious. Some of the many red flags that could indicate your child is suffering from a mental health condition include:
If your child or adolescent is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to seek an evaluation.
The most commonly diagnosed conditions among kids and teens are ADD/ADHD, behavioral problems, anxiety, and depression. According to the latest statistics from the CDC, the number of youngsters diagnosed with these conditions and the number who took their own lives are:
Other conditions that affect children and teens include bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), eating disorders, PANDAS, PTSD, Tourette syndrome, schizophrenia, aggression, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Be aware that it is not unusual for children to have more than one condition. For example, nearly 2 out of 3 youngsters diagnosed with ADD/ADHD also have one or more other mental health condition. About half of all kids with ADD/ADHD also have a behavior problem or conduct disorder, and about 1 in 3 have anxiety. If your child shows multiple signs and symptoms, it could mean that co-occurring disorders are at work.
Half of children and adolescents in the U.S. with mental health disorders don’t receive treatment, according to a 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics. Untreated mental illness as a child or teen can have debilitating lifelong consequences. For example, untreated ADD/ADHD increases the risk of depression, drug abuse, obesity, smoking, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Mental health problems interfere with school performance, work performance, and relationships. Allowing a child’s symptoms to go unchecked can increase the chances of school failure, limit their opportunities to go to college, hamper their ability to get the job they want, and set them up for relationships filled with strife.
Because young brains are still developing until a person’s mid-20s, untreated problems can alter brain development. This can lead to lasting negative changes in how the brain functions.
At Amen Clinics, we see many adults who say their symptoms emerged during childhood, but they (or their parents) didn’t seek treatment at the time. By the time they seek our help, they often have troubles in every area of their lives and deeply regret that they didn’t get relief earlier.
For young people, getting diagnosed and starting treatment early can be more effective and can help prevent long-term issues—provided they’ve been properly diagnosed and they’re on the right treatment plan! Unfortunately, many of the conditions affecting kids and teens can be misdiagnosed. In part, this is because traditional psychiatry, including child psychiatry, continues to make diagnoses based primarily on symptom clusters, and so many of the symptoms associated with mental health issues overlap.
This is why it is so important to look at the brain with SPECT imaging to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Our brain imaging work at Amen Clinics shows that “mental health” conditions in children and teens are actually “brain health” conditions. One of the most exciting neuroimaging findings is that conditions like ADD/ADHD, depression, and anxiety aren’t simple or single disorders. We have identified specific brain patterns associated with 7 types of ADD/ADHD and 7 types of anxiety and depression.
Here are some of the brain patterns associated with some of the most common disorders in young people.
Because many conditions have multiple subtypes, when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, one size does NOT fit all. Treatment that works for one child won’t work for every child, and it could even make some of them worse!
Since 1989, Amen Clinics has helped thousands of children and adolescents improve focus and attention, reduce anxiety and depression, overcome behavioral issues, and more.
With the world’s largest database of functional brain scans — 150,000 and growing — from patients from all 50 states and 120 countries, our Child and Adolescent Psychiatry specialists are better able to distinguish conditions and identify co-occurring conditions. With a more accurate diagnosis, we are able to tailor a more targeted treatment plan. We believe in using the least toxic, most effective strategies for children and teens. This may include natural supplements, nutrition, exercise, helpful forms of therapy, and medication (when necessary)—all personalized for your child’s specific needs.