Signs of Mental Illness in Children

Many people think that children cannot be mentally ill. Many parents won’t believe their child is having difficulties. They believe they are faking it, or are looking for attention. Some might think that mental illness is an adult problem. The truth is that children can get mentally ill, like adults. Children’s symptoms are different than adults, and must be cared for in a different way. Even toddlers and infants can be affected.

For children in preschool or daycare, the first sign of mental illness is behavior problems. Fighting, pushing someone down, and other signs of violence. These problems are not the child’s fault of they are doing it because of a mental illness. Just because they are mentally ill does not mean that they intervention should not be put into place. Talking to the person who cares for your child is the best first step, as they see the what goes on during the day. They might have some insight you do not have.

Young children sometimes have trouble sleeping, which in itself  is a problem, If the child has restless sleep, try to set a routine for every day for bedtime, such as a bath, pajama put on time, a glass of milk (a small glass could help them fall asleep without having to get up to use the potty”

When your child falls asleep, nightmares can come every night, sometimes the same dream over and over. This makes sleep restless and could cause your child to be scared to go to sleep. Try to make the room as comfortable as you can. Pillows, sound machine, stuffed animals, and even spraying some lavender on the bed could help a child feel more comfortable in their room.

Then there are older children in grade school who have some of the same symptoms, but each age group has their own set of symptoms.

One of the first symptoms that could be noticed is physical difficulties. Stomachaches and  headaches are often seen in children before any sadness or fear. Taking the child to the doctor won’t help the physical side, because it is a mental, not physical  illness. However, a good doctor might be able to tell that there is something going on, and it is not physical.

Weight loss that seems to have no rhyme or reason to is a reason to check into the child. It could be a  sign of an eating disorder, Children are starting to develop eating disorders much more frequently these days, with beauty standards changing and bullying. If your child is eating less, vomits more often, or takes laxatives, they need help. Take them to a doctor before they get too unhealthy. Look for hair falling out,  pale skin,  and dizziness among many other symptoms.

Physical harm is one way to tell if your child needs help. Cutting and burning are the most common, but other ways of self-harm are around. Check for long-sleeved shirts even when it is hot, not wanting to show parts of their body, and sharp objects that could be used to harm oneself Most children do not self-harm to kill themselves. They just want a release of their pain they can’t express. However, some children do have suicidal thoughts or attempts. Look for suicide notes, giving things away, and talking about death. There are other things to look for as well.

Hearing and seeing things that are not really there can start around this age. While schizophrenia is often not diagnosed until the person is in their twenties, childhood schizophrenia is possible. A child might lose touch with reality. Hallucinations, sometimes scary, or sometimes not, are a symptom of childhood schizophrenia . Visible hallucinations are the ones only they can see, while auditory deals with hearing things. These can all be early signs of the disorder.

Every child is different, and no two will be the same. Symptoms are just guidelines to go by. If you suspect your child is in any mental anguish, go to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor. They will help you find the first step if they find something that could lead to a mental illness If the doctor says your child is fine, but you are still having troubles, find a trained therapist to talk to your child and your family.  And if needed ,a psychiatrist to prescribe medicines. Your child should be put first in this difficult part of their life. Seek help, do not wait, and help your child get better.


 Alex is currently working on expanding her blogging and writing skills so she can become a journalist someday. She is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. She hopes to help spread awareness about mental illness and autism spectrum disorders and end the stigma on both.

You can follow Alex H on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog.

2 thoughts on “Signs of Mental Illness in Children

  1. I found myself surprised while reading, it somehow brought me a sense of relief. This thought has crossed my mind far more times than I would like to admit. I suppose knowing its crossed someone else’s mind as well made me feel less alone. I was 12 or 13 when my childhood pediatrician first approached the possibility that I may be Bipolar. It wasn’t until 9 years later (during my first manic episode) that I was actually diagnosed. Those 9 years were so painful, so damaging, for me and definitely for my family. I will never stop wishing we had taken that warning more seriously. That being said, parents:
    – If you (or any other adult) have concerns about your child’s mental health, DO NOT IGNORE IT. Get a second opinion, see a therapist, get your baby help. You could quite possibly be saving their life.

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