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Childrens Mental Health Anxiety

Aug 17, 2007
It can be difficult to diagnose a mental health or anxiety problem in a child, simply because their changing moods and behaviour can often be attributed to a normal part of the growing up process, however, there are certain signs and symptoms that might indicate a child is suffering more than what would be considered normal and they may need some sort of help to get back to their old self again.

It is perfectly natural for a child to feel anxious at times, for example, when facing exams or particularly difficult situations, but when the anxiety is persistent and severe enough to affect the childs day to day life and normal routines then the child could be suffering from an underlying mental health problem that requires some kind of intervention.

What to look out for

Recognising the symptoms of persistent anxiety and mental distress and doing something about it is vital if the child is to get the kind of help he or she needs. Some signs and symptoms to look out for that could indicate the onset of an anxiety or depression related disorder include the following:

Feelings of sadness, despair and hopelessness
Often fearful and scared for no particular reason
Unable to think clearly or make decisions, confusion
Showing signs of extreme anger and hostility towards others
Feeling guilty and worthy of blame and punishment
Thinking they are unloved and unlovable
Appearing anxious, fidgety, and irritable a lot of the time
Seeming to be tired all the time
Sleeping too much or not sleeping at all
Holding strange beliefs or displaying unusual or compulsive behaviours
Disinterested in activities they used to enjoy
Thinking or talking about death and suicide

It is of course perfectly normal for a child to experience one or more of these symptoms in a mild form from time to time, however, in mental illness the symptoms can become so severe and so overwhelming for the child to the extent that they may feel unable to cope with their lives. If excessive anxiety and/or other symptoms appear to be interfering with your childs ability to carry out their day to day routines and other normal activities then you should speak to your doctor.

For example, as well as some of the symptoms already listed, a child may start refusing to go to school, or get up in the morning or go to bed at night. They may say they dont want to attend weekly clubs and activities they used to frequent, or they may not wish to see their friends anymore. They can fall behind with schoolwork, become violent and display other unsociable and or strange behaviours; they may also hold unusual beliefs, feel paranoid or in severe cases may suffer from hallucinations and or delusions.

These are just a few of the ways that mental illness can manifest itself in the behaviour of a child who is suffering mental distress and anxiety, the important thing is to understand that the child is really in need of proper treatment, understanding and support as they cant help their actions.

Mental illness affects how we think, feel and understand ourselves and how we fit into the world around us, as such it can alter a childs behaviour and damage their relationships and their education. It wont just go away and without help, the child can suffer needlessly for months or years as well as increasing the risk of attempted suicide or even death.

So what causes mental illness in children?

There is no single identifiable reason why a child becomes overly anxious or develops a mental health problem but there are some factors that appear to increase the risk of suffering from some form of mental health problem.

Genetics , mental illness can be handed down in the genes so if there is a history of mental illness in the family then there is an increased risk of a child suffering from mental illness too

Stress , sometimes if there are other events going on in their lives, for example, divorce, physical illness, death of a loved one, money problems, bullying at school etc. then the stress can become too much to cope with and can trigger a mental illness

Diet, research indicates that if the diet is too rich in Omega 6 and there is not enough Omega 3 in the form of oily fish or fish oil then the imbalance of fatty acids in the brain can influence brain function and increase the risk of depression, ADHD, and other mood and behaviour disorders

Environment , abuse, neglect and feeling unloved and uncared for can lead to anxiety and mental distress


If your child is displaying signs of anxiety or mental illness, talk to your child and encourage them to explore their feelings and of course, speak to your doctor in order to obtain a correct diagnoses and possible treatment options as it is vital that these symptoms are addressed. With proper help and support, most children will go on to make a full recovery and will be able to enjoy their lives once again.
About the Author
Simon jones is an expert in depression and related disorders. For more information about depression please come and visit our site http://www.fightingdepression.co.uk
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