Mental disorders in children require special attention, as they can affect their growth and development. Listed below are some of the common mental disorders that affect children.
One mental disorder that may affect children is autism. This condition causes significant problems with social interaction, communication, and behavior. The condition is typically present by age three and requires continuous care throughout the patient's life. Many affected individuals have intellectual disabilities as well. In a report published in 2015, the CDC found that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has increased to one in every six-eight children aged four years old who live in the United States. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with this condition than girls. Early intervention is often recommended for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Dentists play an important role in recognizing signs of this disorder in children during regular exams and cleaning appointments. Regular visits can help identify developmental delays that may indicate the presence of such a disorder. Children with autism may also struggle with pain tolerance, so the dentist may recommend the use of local anesthetic or sedation during their cleaning appointment to reduce anxiety. For children with autism, it is especially important to visit a dentist regularly to prevent serious oral health problems.
Though most children will grow out of tic disorders, this is not the case for all cases. If your child suffers from Tourette Syndrome or a condition that causes chronic tics, they may benefit from a mouthguard to keep their jaw from clenching and their teeth from grinding during sleep. This will not only reduce discomfort caused by their condition but may also prevent damage to their teeth and bite due to the stress caused by these involuntary movements. Mouthguards are custom-fitted specifically to your child's mouth and can be worn comfortably at night to prevent the unwanted movements of teeth and jaw.
As a parent, you're probably aware of how your child's physical health affects their mental health. Your child's body and the way it functions play a big part in how you feel about them and your relationship. Their mood, energy, and motivation often reflect how healthy or unhealthy their body is. Sometimes, they experience physical symptoms because of what's going on inside their mind.
Physical symptoms can also manifest as a result of depression. In children, this can lead to stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue. In some cases, your children might even complain of pain in their chest. This pain can be physical, but it can also stem from emotional upset. Other common symptoms of childhood depression include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, low self-esteem, pessimism, and social withdrawal. They might also develop difficulty concentrating in school, which can result in academic failure. If you notice that your child is losing interest in their favorite activities, it's important to look for signs of depression in young children. Some kids might start acting out at home, while others might become withdrawn and quiet. Overall, if you notice a drastic change in their behavior and they can't seem to snap out of it, contact a doctor as soon as possible.
Nocturnal enuresis, or bedwetting, is involuntary urination while sleeping. Urine leaks can be caused by underlying medical conditions or by certain psychological disorders. Obviously, wet sheets are bothersome and embarrassing. If nighttime wetting persists after age 5, it is classified as a disorder that requires medical treatment. Bed-wetting may be a sign of anxiety or stress in a child. Bed-wetting is also associated with other disorders such as ADHD, sleepwalking, night terrors, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord problems, and cerebral palsy.
One of the most common mental disorders in children and adolescents, OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. The obsessions cause anxiety and distress, while the compulsions provide temporary relief from these symptoms. Common types of obsessions are fear of germs or dirt and unwanted behavior like repeated hand-washing or counting rituals. Compulsions can include constant checking of doors or windows or repeatedly tapping on objects. Some patients experience these repeated behaviors to the point that it affects their quality of life. Left untreated, it can become debilitating and even dangerous to the child. When parents notice signs of these obsessions or compulsions in their child, they should visit their dentist to rule out other underlying causes.
Though children are often unable to describe symptoms as clearly as adults can, the dentist will be able to detect signs during a checkup and cleaning. The most common signs are excessive gum chewing, teeth grinding, mouth breathing, poor oral hygiene, and inflamed gums. If the symptoms are severe enough, they can even make brushing difficult and cause oral pain. Parents should keep an eye out for unusual behaviors in their children that cause them to lose focus. These may include repetitive movements, refusing to eat, avoiding touch by loved ones, refusing to go to the bathroom at appropriate times, and constantly repeating the same phrase over and over. Such habits can be an indicator of an underlying condition and require treatment as soon as possible. Seeing a dentist regularly can help to prevent these issues in children.
Call San Pedro Pediatric Medical Group at (310) 832-6487 or schedule an online appointment to learn more about taking care of your child's mental health.