Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Children

When should you worry about your child's mental stability?  The early warning signs of mental illness in children are a bit different than for young adults.  Here are some of the most common:
  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than a month.
  • Explosive, long or destructive rages after the age of four.
  • Lack of interest in play.
  • Severe separation anxiety.
  • Talking about wanting to kill others or wanting to die.
  • A belief in their own abilities to do things like fly.
  • Sexualized behavior unusual for the child's age.
  • Extreme, persistent irritability.
  • Ordering adults around, including telling teachers how to teach or behave.
  • Creativity that seems compulsive or driven.
  • Compulsive craving for certain foods or objects. 
  • Hearing voices.
  • Sleep disturbances, including not sleeping much or having gory nightmares
  • Creating drawings or stories that portray very graphic violence. 
You should be concerned if you see these things, especially if they are interfering with the child's ability to make and keep friends and/or with school success.  Those are all signs that there is a problem.

Above all, trust your instincts.  If anyone you know well ... a spouse, a child ... is exhibiting unusual behavior, don't ignore it. And don't accept the idea that it's just a stage.  Psychotic behavior is never normal. So even if the problems seems to be fading, go get a psychiatric evaluation.  Mental illness is episodic, so a problem may not be going away ... just going away for a while only to return in a more severe form.