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Quick Facts

Overview of Mental Health Disorders in Children


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Nov 2020| Content last modified Nov 2020
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Children can have many of the same mental health disorders that affect adults, such as:

Other mental health disorders affect mainly children and teens:

Mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder rarely affect children, although they sometimes start during adolescence.

All mental health disorders make it hard for your child to have relationships with others, learn in school, and enjoy daily life. Mental health disorders cause your child to suffer.

What causes mental health disorders in children?

Some mental health disorders are caused by abnormal brain development or abnormal brain chemistry. Sometimes these abnormalities are inherited. But doctors aren't sure what causes most mental health disorders.

What are the symptoms of mental health disorders in children?

Symptoms of common mental health disorders in children are often similar to the feelings every child has, such as sadness, fear, worry, anger, excitement, withdrawal, and loneliness. However, children with a mental health disorder have feelings so intense that the feelings:

  • Interfere with their daily life

  • Cause them to suffer

How do doctors tell if my child has a mental health disorder?

To tell if your child has a mental health disorder, doctors will usually:

  • Ask you and your child's teachers about your child’s behaviors and any physical symptoms

  • Talk with your child and watch how he or she acts

  • Sometimes, do blood tests to see if a physical health problem is causing your child's symptoms

To make the diagnosis, doctors may need to send your child to a therapist who specializes in mental health disorders.

How do doctors treat mental health disorders in children?

Treatment depends on what type of mental health disorder your child has and your child's age. Doctors treat mental health disorders with:

  • Behavior therapy

  • Medicine

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