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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What are the most common mental illnesses in children?

Mental disorders in children are quite common and sometimes severe. About one-fourth of children and teens experience some type of mental disorder in any given year, one-third at some time in their lives. The most common kind of mental disorders are anxiety disorders, like overanxious disorder of childhood or separation anxiety disorder. Other common types of mental illnesses in childhood include behavior disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders like depression, and substance-use disorders like alcohol use disorders. Statistics indicate how relatively common these disorders occur. ADHD affects 8%-10% of school-aged children. Depression occurs at a rate of about 2% during childhood and from 4%-7% during adolescence, affecting up to about 20% of adolescents by the time they reach adulthood. In teens more frequently than in younger children, addictions, bipolar disorder, and less often early onset schizophrenia may manifest.

Although not as commonly occurring, developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorders can have a significant lifelong impact on the life of the child and his or her family. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Statistics about autism include that it afflicts one out of every 88 children, a 78% increase in the past 10 years.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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