The benefits of seeing a child psychologist:
Children think, process information, and communicate differently from adults, so it is important to seek expertise from someone who specialises in child psychology. At The Three Seas, we emphasize this; specialisation means faster results and less expensive for you. We have a number of child psychologists across all 4 of our locations, who are adequately trained to work with children. If you’re unsure about the process of seeking help for your child, or you simply don’t know what to expect from a child psychologist, here is some basic information that might help to inform your decision to seek help from a professional.
- A child psychologist has knowledge of evidence-based techniques for getting your child to talk; children aren’t always comfortable talking to adults, especially if they don’t know them well enough. A psychologist is trained at effectively opening up the boundaries of trust, and establishing a therapeutic relationship that is helpful and progressive.
- He/she will be keenly aware of the differences between how mental illness affects adults and children, thereby encouraging appropriate treatment for all parties involved in the presenting difficulties.
- A Psychologist’s knowledge of and experience with children will enable them to make the most appropriate recommendations about parenting, discipline, and other common issues relating to difficult or unusual behaviour in children.
- Child Psychologists know how to enable balance between promoting trust with your child, and allowing you (the parent of carer) to gain access to information relating to the child’s treatment and progress; he/she will know what is appropriate, and what is not, in terms if sharing information about your child with you.
- He/she knows how to explain mental illness to your child, without making him/her feel bad or damaged, in a language he/she can clearly understand.
You and your child deserve the very best treatment possible. At Three Seas, we treat you like the unique individuals you are, offering comprehensive child and family services in a comfortable, confidential, compassionate, and safe setting. Your family can overcome this challenge, but not without help!
The truth about children and mental illness:
Children have little control over their lives, which can lead to tantrums, behaviour problems, and difficulty making the right decisions. They also face more stress than we adults may realise; schoolyard bullies, demands of increasingly challenging academic settings, unspoken anxiety along with an inability to communicate their feelings adequately to adults. And for parents, overwhelmed with the responsibility of paying bills, working a challenging job, and managing a family, its not always easy to respond in the affirmative about whether any of their children have a mental illness. It’s easier to simply comply with the idealisation that childhood is a time of ease and comfort, but seemingly this is not the case. A large number of mental health conditions among children and adolescents go undiagnosed. The rate of depression among Australian teens is especially high, with 12% of teens experiencing suicidal feelings and nearly five percent attempting suicide.
It can be tempting to dismiss a child’s mental health issues and label them as merely bad behaviour, teenage moodiness, or just normal childhood or pubescent challenges. But if the issue is reoccurring, and is presenting as a mental illness, the truth is, it won’t get better on its own. Research has indeed suggested that the earlier parents opt to treat their children’s mental health conditions, the less likely the child is to struggle with ongoing mental illness. Mental health issues are real disorders just like cancer or diabetes. They’re highly treatable, but only with prompt professional intervention.
Common mental health issues among children:
Medical professionals have identified hundreds of mental health conditions, and children are vulnerable to almost every affliction adults face. Some mental health disorders are more common than others, though, particularly among children. Some of the most common challenges children and adolescents face, as well as their symptoms, include:
Depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, negativity, and guilt. Some children may also express anger or cope with their depression by having frequent tantrums. Those with depression lose interest in friends and family, as well as previously beloved activities. They may struggle to sleep, eat, or get out of bed, and often experience unexplained aches and pains.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised anxiety disorder results in chronic anxiety that doesn’t seem related to any particular thing. If your child is being bullied or abused and feels anxious, then, he or she likely does not have GAD. Children with GAD may struggle to eat or sleep, experience physical anxiety symptoms such as a racing heart or nausea, and may have difficulties concentrating in school.
Attachment disorders disrupt the children’s ability to form normal, healthy attachments to loving adults. These disorders almost always result from abusive or neglectful treatment in early childhood, so are especially prevalent among adopted and foster children. Children with attachment disorders may struggle to feel love for their caregivers, act out against siblings, and experience symptoms of other mental disorders, most notably depression.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reaction to a traumatic event such as being abused, getting into a life-threatening accident, or seeing a loved one die a violent death. Children with PTSD often have behavioural problems. They also struggle with anxiety and depression. PTSD causes kids to experience intrusive memories of the traumatic event known as flashbacks. During these flashbacks, your child may appear not to know where he is, or may react strangely to contact with you or other loved ones. Some children with PTSD behave aggressively while others take dramatic steps to avoid the source of their anxiety. For instance, if your child was molested by a stranger at church, he/she might be terrified of church and do anything to avoid going.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition among Australian youth, as well as a leading contributor to learning disabilities. Kids with ADHD are hyper and fidgety. They still have difficulty with sitting and struggle to listen and concentrate. These struggles can undermine their ability to make friends, to empathise with others, and to feel good about themselves. Consequently, many kids with ADHD eventually develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. Early treatment is of paramount importance since it can prevent the disorder from persisting into adulthood. A related disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), results in difficulty with attention, but no hyperactivity. These kids may appear introverted, aloof, or distracted.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Oppositional defiant disorder is defiance and rebellion that goes far beyond age-appropriate norms. Children with ODD may behave violently and aggressively, ignoring reasonable rules from parents. A teen who carries a gun to school, for instance, may have ODD, but a teen who tries alcohol or who periodically yells at her parents is likely just experiencing the normal trajectory of teenage development. ODD can lead to criminal behaviour, cause your child to struggle in school, and even lead them to hurt others, so prompt treatment is incredibly important.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder has two distinct components. First, a child must experience obsessive anxious thoughts, usually about a specific fear. For instance, your child might be terrified of getting a disease or dying in a car crash. To alleviate these fears, kids engage in ritualistic compulsions. The compulsions don’t directly address the fear, but they offer short-lived relief. For instance, a child might tap on the door eight times every time he/she walks by it. Over time, compulsions tend to become more intrusive. A door-tapping compulsion might, over time, give rise to the need to constantly tap something.
Eating disorders are among the most lethal mental health conditions a child can experience. Even if your kids escape with their life intact, eating disorders can stunt their emotional and physical development, leading to a lifetime of problems. Though most eating disorder victims are female, about 10% are male, that number will likely increase. The most common eating disorders are:
- Binge eating disorder, which causes its sufferers to eat dangerously large quantities of food in short periods of time. It may contribute to obesity.
- Bulimia nervosa, which causes its sufferers to binge and then purge, usually by vomiting or with the assistance of laxatives. Dental problems and organ damage are common among people with this ailment.
- Anorexia nervosa, which leads to dramatically decreased food intake. Many people with anorexia die due to malnourishment or dehydration. Most sufferers lose large quantities of weight in a short period, rendering them susceptible to a host of dangerous medical conditions.
What can cause mental health disorders in children?
Mental illness is just as complicated as physical illness. There’s no single cause that can explain any single mental illness, and most illnesses result from a combination of biological, environmental, and lifestyle issues. Just as an unhealthy diet, the wrong genetic legacy, and chronic stress can increase vulnerability to a child’s likelihood of developing mental illness.
Your child’s genetic heritage is a major predictor of her vulnerability to mental illness. Many mental illnesses may have a genetic component, and in the right environment, this genetic legacy can give rise to mental illness. Some research even suggests that the specific mental illness a child gets depends on her environment. A child with a genetic predisposition to mental illness may get depression in one context, but schizophrenia in another.
Family history plays an important role. If someone in your family to whom your son or daughter is close has a mental illness, your kid may get it too, even if they’re not genetically related. Children learn from what the adults around them do, and if your child spends his or her childhood seeing adults react in inappropriate ways, those reactions may feel normal, and even healthy, causing your child to adopt these problematic reactions them self.
The family environment also plays a significant role. Children living in chaotic, abusive families are highly vulnerable to mental health conditions. Parents are more likely to report mental health symptoms in their children after a divorce, death in the family, or major trauma.
A childhood history of intense stress or trauma can render your child much more vulnerable to mental illness. Some mental disorders, such as PTSD, are the direct result of trauma. Others may be more likely in trauma victims. For example, a child who was abused by a parent may suffer a loss of self-worth and self-esteem that increases her vulnerability to depression.
Sexism on Female
Being female is also a risk factor for mental illness. Doctors have not identified a genetic or hormonal reason for this phenomenon. Instead, it’s likely that a number of factors are at play.
Sexism is still alive and well, with 25% of adult women experiencing rape, domestic abuse, or some other form of gendered violence. This chronic stress renders girls more vulnerable to mental illness. And because girls are more likely than boys to be victims of violence, they’re also more likely to get trauma-related conditions, such as PTSD.
Lifestyle also plays a role. Children living in poverty are much more likely to become mentally ill, likely because of the stress of poverty. Unhealthy eating habits, insufficient exercise, poor parenting, and other lifestyle risks can also prove problematic. In children who already have a mental illness, these factors can conspire to worsen the condition.
How a child’s mental health can affect the family:
It’s not always easy to admit that your child needs help. Considering professional intervention is the first step in accepting, and treating the presenting issue. Mental illness in a child can do much more harm than contributing to bad grades and frequent conflict. When children don’t get the help they need, the whole family can suffer common challenges, including:
- Relationship conflict, including divorce and separation
- Other children in the family feeling neglected, unimportant, or afraid of their mentally ill siblings
- Legal problems for you or your child
- Chronic stress
- Stress-related health ailments for you, your partner, or your child
- Depression and other mental illnesses; about half of all caregivers for a mentally ill person show signs of depression themselves.
How can we help?
If left unchecked, your child’s mental illness may progress and eventuate into something more chronic and complex. It is advised that if your child does present with concerning behaviour, that you (as the parent or carer) seek professional help from a child psychologist. The Three Seas can help you!
We offer a number of treatment options that may assist with the difficulties of having a child with mental health concerns. We rely solely on evidence based practice for both the child and family. If you would like to speak with a professional psychologist, our Client Connect Team is available to assist Mon-Fri (8.30am – 8.30pm) and Saturdays (9am – 5pm) on (03) 9809 1000. Please get in contact!