Children and Teens
Early Intervention is Vital
Many childhood mental illnesses are in fact neurodevelopmental disorders that affect brain circuitry. Although genetics may play a role in the design of this circuitry, learning, experience, diet and lifestyle have a powerful impact on how it changes over time. Untreated pediatric mental illness can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s entire life – leading to issues such as substance abuse, anxiety, and depression, impaired relationships, poor academic & job functioning, and low self-esteem. Early intervention, however, can powerfully change the trajectory of a child’s brain development – paving the way towards a normal, happy life. The key is to intervene early and with a targeted, multi-system approach. This should include attention to both nature (i.e., neurological, immunological, digestive status) and nurture (i.e., lifestyle, diet, family, school and social environments).
Find the Right Specialist
Pediatric forms of mental illness are rarely identical to those of the adult. Children often develop behavioral changes and warning signs before the full-blown adult form becomes manifest. These can be deceptively suggestive of different adult disorders – making it difficult for some adult psychiatrists to accurately diagnose and treat pediatric illnesses. Indeed, precious years often pass before children receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. After completing training in Adult Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent psychiatrists train for an additional 2-3 years and are uniquely qualified to work with children in all stages of development.
As children grow and individuate, they become more private about their thoughts and feelings. This makes it all the more difficult for parents to grasp the severity of their child’s issues. If you suspect your child may be struggling with mental health issues, it is extremely important to have him/her evaluated by a qualified specialist. The earlier the intervention, the greater the potential for long-term impact.
Understandably, you or your child may be worried about the risks of treatment or the stigma of a diagnosis. But as you consider those risks, consider as well the risk of delaying intervention. Medications – while sometimes useful, are rarely the only option. There is hope. It starts now.