Mental Disorders in Children

According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 5 children suffer from some sort of mental disorder, including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).  While discussions regarding mental disorders in adults have been a topic of conversation as of late, mental disabilities in children, differing by presentation, diagnosis, and treatment, often don’t get as much attention.  It is because of these variations in symptoms that may be normal at differing points in a child’s development stages, such as outbursts of aggression, difficulty in paying attention, or fearfulness that mental disorders in children tend to go unrecognized and undiagnosed.  Unfortunately, because disorders in children can be so hard to identify, many children who could benefit from treatment often do not receive it.

Not only do mental disorders in children affect the child themselves, but their family and community as well.  Among children ages 3-17, the cost of medical bills for such treatment is up to $247 billion per year, with the money going towards things like medical, special education, and juvenile justice expenses.  According to the study, the most prevalent disorder among our nation’s children is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), affecting approximately 6.8% of America’s youth population. Behavioral or conduct problems impacts about 3.5% of children, followed by anxiety (3%), depression (2.1%), autism spectrum disorders (1.1%), and tourette syndrome (.2%).  Furthermore, the study found that ADHD, behavioral or conduct problems, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, tourette syndrome, and cigarette dependence are more prevalent in boys than girls, while depression and alcohol use disorder tend to be displayed more often in female children.

When I was in the 4th grade, I was diagnosed with ADD, a disorder similar to ADHD.  Children with ADD typically have problems with paying attention or concentrating, following directions, and thinking before they act (impulsivity).  They can also become easily bored or frustrated with what would otherwise be basic tasks.  Symptoms of ADD in children usually fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  Prior to getting diagnosed with ADD and subsequently being prescribed mediation, I remember being easily distracted, inattentive, and very disorganized. Luckily I had a good head on my shoulders and was able to get my school work done, but not only did tasks take me longer to complete than my fellow students, but also, at times, I would make careless errors due to my inability to concentrate, which only escalated the level of frustration I was already experiencing. Furthermore, because the impulsivity aspect of ADD was a symptom that heavily affected me, I had difficulty waiting for my turn to speak, often blurting out answers or interrupting others, which in turn, caused teachers to believe I was being purposefully defiant.  My undiagnosed ADD not only affected myself, but it affected my parents as well.  My constant frustrations and impulsivities caused me to become moody and irritable with my parents usually being on the receiving end those undesirable emotions.

Being the youngest of numerous siblings and having had other relatives diagnosed with ADD, my parents were familiar with the warning signs and symptoms so they had me tested in 4th grade.  While I remember not wanting to go to the nurse’s office to take my medication because I didn’t want to feel different than the rest of the students, I remember hating the constant waves of frustration that resulted from my inability to focus way more.  Luckily, I was diagnosed at a relatively early age and was able to get the treatment I needed in order to succeed.  Unfortunately, many children, not only with ADD or ADHD but also with other mental difficulties as well, are not tested and therefore struggle to succeed, as they are undiagnosed and untreated.

While, according to the CDC study, the number of children being diagnosed with mental disorders is steadily increasing, suggesting that perhaps people are becoming more aware of the identifying symptoms, it is exceptionally important for both parents as well as health care professionals to strive for early diagnosis and subsequently determine the appropriate treatment in order to not only help the child, but also to better comprehend the influence of mental disorders, communicate the needs for treatment and intervention strategies, and advocate for the mental health of children as a whole.

Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Japan’s Child Kidnapping Problem, The Daily Beast

Japan has a child-kidnapping problem. It’s not strangers snatching the kids on the playground or at the bus-stop; the problem is that when a Japanese national divorces a foreigner overseas, he or she can abduct their children, bring them back to Japan and the law ensures that the parent left behind has no rights to see the children or take them back home. The U.S. State Department reports that there have been over a hundred such kidnappings since 1994—according to a source, the number is closer to 400. Within Japan itself, divorce often means that one parent may have little or no access to the child. Japan’s inability to deal with child abduction partly stems from archaic family law in Japan that does not recognize joint custody. It’s a winner take all system. The law makes it almost impossible for the other parent to even meet the child, if the Japanese partner objects.

DSM-5 Changes to Autism, ADHD Definitions Could Impact Millions of Children, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A new edition of the psychiatric “bible” will be released May 17, arriving on a wave of controversy that may have a profound influence on children’s mental health care in the United States, particularly around the diagnosis and treatment of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) is the first major update of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) clinical guidebook in almost 20 years. The DSM-5 expands and alters the diagnosis criteria for several disorders, and in some cases, introduces definitions of “new” psychiatric disorders.

The influence the DSM-5 has on children’s services could be extensive, because its diagnostic criteria are the nation’s most commonly used for identifying and treating mental disorders. Changes in diagnostic criteria, and especially mental disorder definitions, may alter the eligibility for some children to receive specialized education in school or limit certain treatments pediatricians may provide for younger patients.

Mental Disorders Affect 1 in 5 U.S. Children Each Year, New Scientist

As many as one in five children aged 3 to 17 years old experiences a mental health disorder each year, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the most comprehensive review of US children’s mental health yet, the CDC analysed data from 11 ongoing federal epidemiological surveys. Some of these are based on doctors’ diagnoses and prescriptions; others rely on telephone interviews with parents.

By analysing data from 2005 to 2011, the CDC calculated that 13 to 20 per cent of children in the US have some type of mental health disorder annually. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) accounted for the highest number of diagnoses, with 6.8 per cent of children diagnosed with it each year. This was followed by behavioural problems, anxiety and depression.

Prenatal Exposure to Traffic is Associated with Respiratory Infection in Young Children, Science Daily

Living near a major roadway during the prenatal period is associated with an increased risk of respiratory infection developing in children by the age of 3, according to a new study from researchers in Boston.