Mental Illness In Children
Child Psychiatrists are subspecialists in the branch of psychiatry that specializes in the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of psychopathological disorders in children, adolescents, and their families. Child Psychiatrists are trained to analyze and integrate biological, psychosocial, genetic, demographic, and environmental factors in one's history to formulate a treatment plan.
Children and Adolescents have unique and specific developmental stages and challenges. Disorders in children were ignored until the 1940's. However it was only after the 1980's that childhood disorders became more widely recognized, accepted and treated. Incidence and prevalence of childhood psychiatric disorders are increasing, and this is largely due to improved awareness, screening and diagnostics.
Common symptoms that may warrant professional assessment:
- Poor academic performance
- Poor social functioning
- Drug or alcohol misuse/ abuse
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty coping
- Stealing or destroying things
- Irrational or excessive fears/ phobias
- Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, friends
If symptoms are steady and persistent and affect the child's functioning treatment may be necessary.
The psychiatric assessment of a child or adolescent starts with obtaining a psychiatric history by interviewing the young person and their parents. The assessment includes exploration of the current issues about the child's emotional or behavioral problems, the child's physical health and development, family relationships and history of parental mental illness. Collateral information is usually obtained from the child's school with regards to academic performance, peer relationships, and behavior in the school environment.
The psychiatric assessment always includes a mental status examination of the child or adolescent which consists of a careful behavioral observations and a first-hand account of their subjective experiences. The assessment also includes an observation of the interactions within the family, especially the interactions between the child and the parents.
The diagnosis of most Child and Adolescent Psychiatric disorders are "clinical diagnoses"- made by and based upon the clinical interview and exam. Symptoms are guided by the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM- IV-TR). The diagnosis may be supplemented and supported by the use of rating scales, psychometric testing, and other forms of testing. However, there is no "blood test" or "imaging study" that can take the place of a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation in making the diagnosis.
The aim of treatment is also "comprehensive". Healthy lifestyle modifications are stressed and provide a stable base for other treatments. Adequate sleep, diet, exercise and the abstinence from illicit drugs can greatly help remission rates and possible even reduce the need or amount of medications. Psychotherapy is usually always beneficial such as: cognitive-behavior therapy, problem-solving therapies, psychodynamic therapy, parent training programs, and family therapy. The intervention can also include consultation with pediatricians, primary care physiciansor professionals from schools, juvenile courts, social agencies or other community organizations. Medications can certainly produce great benefits, however, are usually just a component of the complete treatment plan.
Dr. Zinia Thomas of Spectrum Psychiatry, P.C. is skilled at treating various kinds of mental illness in children. No matter how unique or complex your child's condition is, you can expect comprehensive, non-judgmental, holistic care at our facility.