As a parent, you constantly worry about your children. Every decision you make, from setting limits on which television shows they’re allowed to watch to deciding how often to let them indulge in sweets, can ultimately affect the outcome of their lives. At the same time, you can’t necessarily be with them every moment of every day. That means you can’t constantly protect them from outside threats and being exposed to unnecessary evils.
On top of all that, the number of children suffering from mental health issues has surged in recent years. Reports show that an estimated 20 percent of children suffer from some type of mental health condition at present. Approximately half of those cases arise by the age of 14. Knowing when your child is experiencing normal fears, behavioral challenges, or other problems and when he or she may benefit from behavioral health services for youth can be difficult. Understanding some of the warning signs of mental or emotional issues makes things a great deal easier.
Family History of Mental Conditions
One of the most straightforward indications that your child may require counseling at some point is having a family history of mental or emotional health problems. If you or other family members suffer from anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or other disorders, it’s important to watch for warning signs of those issues in your children from an early age. Indications of mental illnesses generally include mood swings, social withdrawal, unusual nervousness, lack of interest in things that once drew their attention, and changes in sleeping or eating habits.
Sleep or Eating Disorders
Changes in sleeping and eating habits can be signs of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, but they’re also problems in their own rights. One recent report notes that 95 percent of the people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and additional eating disorders are under the age of 25. A significant portion of them is between the ages of 12 and 18. Another report shows that 50 percent of children experience sleep problems that can lead to mental and behavioral issues. Both sleep and eating disorders can bring about a wide range of problems for children that last well into adulthood.
Young people are also increasingly participating in self-harming behaviors. These can include cutting themselves with razors, scissors, or knives. They may also involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Self-harming is often a cry for help and an indication of underlying mental and emotional issues. Many children aren’t forthcoming about their self-harming behaviors. If you notice your child stops wearing shorts, short sleeves, or dresses even in hot weather and begins making a special effort to cover up his or her arms and legs, this may be a sign of self-harm.
Knowing When to Wait and When to Take Action
If your child is exhibiting the signs of sleep or eating disorders; depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions; or self-harming, consider seeking behavioral or mental health services. Catching those issues early on and making sure your child receives treatment is the key to overcoming them. That being said, counseling isn’t always necessary. Almost all children go through normal changes in moods and behaviors from time to time. If those changes grow worse over time or don’t seem to fade after a few months, don’t hesitate to contact a professional counselor for help.