Mental Illness in Children

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Mental illness in children facts

  • Mental disorders in children are quite common, occurring in about one-quarter of this age group in any given year.
  • The most common childhood mental disorders are anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Although less common, developmental disorders and psychotic disorders in children can have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family.
  • As in any age group, there tends to be no single cause for mental illness in children.
  • In addition to the specific symptoms of each mental disorder, children with a psychiatric illness can exhibit signs that are specific to their age and developmental status.
  • Establishing the diagnosis of a mental illness in children usually involves the combination of comprehensive medical, developmental, and mental-health assessments.
  • There are a variety of treatments available for managing mental illness in children, including several effective medications, educational or occupational interventions, as well as specific forms of psychotherapy.
  • Children with mental-health problems can have lower educational achievement, greater involvement with the criminal justice system, and fewer stable placements in the child welfare system than their peers.
  • Attempts at prevention of childhood mental illness tend to address both specific and nonspecific risk factors, strengthen protective factors, and use an approach that is appropriate for the child's developmental level.
  • Research on mental illness in children is focused on a number of issues, including increasing the understanding of how often these illnesses occur, the risk factors, most effective treatments, and how to improve the access that children have to those treatments.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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