Get expert advice on common psychological disorders among kids, plus, find out how to manage them…

Your child is communicating with you constantly. In fact, you can tell what junior is feeling and thinking from his behaviour.

While you can expect your tween to be sullen and moody from time to time, these behavioural changes can sometimes persist, especially if this is a phase they’re going through such as puberty. So, how can you tell if they are really suffering from a psychological disorder?

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, stresses that you should pay attention to any pervasive, frequent and intense abnormal emotional behaviour. These episodes also tend to cause dysfunction for your child and the family.

Pay attention to any pervasive, frequent and intense abnormal emotional behaviour. These episodes tend to cause dysfunction for your child and the family.

Your offspring’s emotional behaviour will also affect all other aspects of junior’s life negatively — compromising their ability to establish proper relationships with other people. Needless to say, their learning and school performance will also suffer.

Dr Lim cites the three most common emotional and behavioural conditions among kids in Singapore…


CAUSES While the exact causes of depression remains unknown, Dr Lim cautions that family history has a part to play. “If someone has a parent or sibling with depression, that person has about a two to three times greater risk of developing depression compared with the average person.” Big events or changes in your child’s life like grieving the loss of a loved one or not performing well or fitting in with their peers in school can also trigger depression.
THE SIGNS Many times, childhood depression is undiagnosed and not treated because it’s misread as normal emotional and psychological changes your young ’un is experiencing while they grow. Look out for changes such as: An increase or decrease in appetite, sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, difficulty focusing, low energy levels and fatigue. Changes in behaviour like anger and irritability with sudden outbursts, choosing to keep to him or herself and harbouring thoughts of suicide and death are also common red flags.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Do not hesitate to get your child diagnosed as soon as you suspect that they may have depression, especially since this is one cause of suicides. You should note that depression is a recurrent condition, so you must remain vigilant after junior is diagnosed. Dr Lim points out that the odds that depression may recur within two years after the initial bout is as high as 40 per cent. The risk soars to 70 per cent after five years from the first depressive episode.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

CAUSES A child who was born prematurely or a low birthweight has an increased risk of developing ADHD later in life. Research has also shown that people with ADHD may have an imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters in their brain or faulty neurochemicals.
THE SIGNS ADHD signs falls into three main categories:
* Inattention Your child is easily distracted, isn’t able to follow directions or finish tasks, doesn’t appear to be listening and tends to daydream.
* Hyperactivity Junior will appear to fidget a lot even while they are seated. They will have trouble playing quietly and also talk excessively.
* Impulsivity Your kiddo will have trouble waiting for their turn and interrupts others regularly.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Besides seeking professional help from a therapist as soon as possible, implementing the specified treatment techniques are vital, shares Dr Lim. “[Also,] the most important aspect of what parents can do is to avoid being punitive and labelling the child as lazy as this will simply result in the low self-esteem for the child.” Most times, junior’s psychiatrist will also prescribe medication, which can help address your child’s issues with focusing.

The risk soars to 70 per cent after five years from the first depressive episode.

Anxiety Disorder

CAUSES A common cause of an anxiety disorder is if junior suffered a traumatic experience in the past. If your child has a shy personality, he or she is also more likely to suffer from social anxiety disorders.
THE SIGNS Your child feels constantly nervous, restless or tense because they feel panic or have a sense of impending danger. They will also tend to breathe rapidly, have trembling hands, an increased heartrate and feel weak or tired. They may also experience panic attacks — short intense periods of anxiety and fear or terror.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Dr Lim cautions that it is important for professionals to treat this condition as parents’ coping techniques aren’t sufficient. Be sure to also implement the therapy your child’s practitioner suggests. You should also remain calm and avoid being unnecessarily riled up. This will allow your child to model your coping strategies, says Dr Lim. “Parents can learn to be accepting of their child's condition and [not judge them]. This helps to ease the guilt and negative judgement the child has on himself and allows for an easier recovery process.”

Photos: iStock

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