Mental Illness in Children (cont.)
What Are the Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children?
Children's symptoms vary depending on the type of mental illness, but some of the general symptoms include:
- Changes in school performance, such as poor grades despite good efforts
- Abuse of drugs and/or
- Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Excessive complaints of physical ailments
- Defying authority, skipping school, stealing or damaging property
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Long-lasting negative moods, often accompanied by poor appetite and thoughts of death
- Frequent outbursts of anger
- Loss of interest in friends and activities they usually enjoy
- Significant increase in time spent alone
- Excessive worrying or anxiety
- Persistent nightmares or night terrors
- Persistent disobedience or aggressive behavior
- Frequent temper tantrums
- Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)
What Causes Mental Illness?
The exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, but research suggests that a combination of factors, including heredity, biology, psychological trauma and environmental stress, may be involved.
- Heredity (genetics): Mental illness tends to run in families, which means the likelihood to develop a mental disorder may be passed on from parents to their children.
- Biology: Some mental disorders have been linked to special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms. In addition, defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain also have been linked to some mental illnesses.
- Psychological trauma: Some mental illnesses may be triggered by psychological trauma, such as
- severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse;
- an important early loss, such as the loss of a parent;
- Environmental stress: Stressful or traumatic events can trigger a mental illness in a person with a vulnerability to a mental disorder.
Reviewed on 2/20/2012
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