4 Signs That Your Child May Have A Mental Health Disorder

You may think that your child may be experiencing a mental health breakdown. However, you cannot easily claim that your child has a mental problem, considering you don’t have a professional’s knowledge and experience in diagnosing these types of disorders. Thus, you cannot say that your child is ‘depressed’ when they’re sad. However, you should also not ignore your child’s well-being.

The best way to be wary about such a condition is to learn and understand what mental health disorder is and seek a professional’s help if you suspect one. The recent advancement of science and the push to better handle mental illness have strengthened professionals’ ability to quickly determine if a child is experiencing mental illness.

What Is a Mental Illness?

Before knowing what mental illness is, you must understand what a child’s ideal mental health is. Generally, your child’s mental health consists of their ability to cope and handle different situations. Specifically, when experiencing negative emotions and experiences, your child should be able to process them to create a positive outcome.

When they have a mental illness or disorder, they cannot correctly process various triggers as the illness disrupts your child’s ability. Instead, your child may shut down physically and emotionally. As a result, they may be more prone to tantrums, erratic thinking, and have weak social skills. Overall, it will affect their ability to perform in social situations without proper treatment.

Common Childhood Mental Disorder and Their Signs

Also, it would help if you understood that there are various mental disorders. Every child with a mental health disorder may be different from their peers. Thus, the signs they may show also vary.

Here are some typical childhood mental disorders and their signs you may want to be wary of:

1. Depression and Its Signs

One of the most common mental health disorders, even for children, is depression. While sadness is the common sign of depression, not all feelings of sadness mean depression. However, if the sadness persists and affects your child’s daily life or activities, then it may be a sign. Especially when coupled with losing interest in things and activities they normally get excited about, your child may be depressed.

But you wouldn’t want to commit a mistake in labeling your child’s behavior as depression. To be sure, also watch out for the following signs before you plan to consult professionals like Portneuf Valley Family Center and other centers near you:

  • Regularly contemplates death and suicide
  • Experiences a gnawing feeling of guilt or lack of self-worth
  • Doesn’t perform well during home activities and school works with friends or classmates.
  • Prone to headaches or stomach pains but doesn’t respond to medication or treatment
  • Easily gets tired from tasks or lacks the energy to do it
  • Easily gets distracted
  • Crying or verbal outburst become come more often
  • Sleeps much more often than usual or finds it difficult to sleep
  • Sudden decrease or increase of appetite
  • Handles rejection more intensely than normal
  • Refrains from going outside or interacting with their friends
  • Feels more sad than normal, resulting in feelings of hopelessness
  • Always angry or cranky
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2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Its Signs

Another mental health disorder that can affect your child is GAD. When they have GAD, your child may experience the unnerving feeling of fear or guilt despite doing or experiencing nothing that would warrant that feeling. As a result, your children will constantly worry about the little things such as:

  • Overall performance in their school
  • Lack of confidence in their abilities
  • Inability to meet your expectations in school and life
  • Family problems or events
  • General acceptance by their social groups
  • Past events of failures or success
  • Upcoming events or tasks
  • Physical appearance in front of strangers or friends

Anxiety, in general, should not be a great issue, as it’s part of growing up. As such, children need to learn how to tackle it and move past it. However, it’s when these feelings of anxiety hinder your child’s ability to perform normal activities.

They may lack the ability to process and resolve these feelings of anxiety. Thus, children with GAD will require a regular amount of assurance from their parents and loved ones.

If you suspect your child to have GAD, you can observe these signs:

  • Cannot bring themselves to relax
  • Constantly experiencing feelings of anger or discontent
  • Scares easily
  • Cannot concentrate on one task
  • Constantly tired to the point of incapacitation
  • Constant feeling of a lump in their throat
  • Hates going out or leaving home without the presence of a family member
  • Severely dislikes and stresses about sleeping outside the comfort of your home
  • Lack or too much sleep
  • Susceptible to muscle or tendon related injuries
  • Sudden and regular complaints of physical pain and injury
  • Dislikes school
  • Worries about future events or tasks even before it happens or the situations mentioned above

3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) And Its Signs

If you think only adults experience trauma, then you may want to rethink such. Some of those traumatic experiences also affect a child even though it might not be clear to you. As a result, you forget to give your child the proper attention whenever a family member dies or your family experiences a life-changing event.

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Your child is then left to handle the experience themselves, which results in negative experiences and trauma. Worse, your child may develop PTSD.

Due to PTSD, your child loses the ability to perform properly, and in some instances, it changes their whole personality. Moreover, some cases even show children living the trauma repeatedly in their heads, resulting in more permanent damages to their psyche and mental health.

Thus, it’s essential to determine if your child has PTSD and find the proper treatment for it by checking if they’re showing the following signs:

  • Your child finds it difficult to fall asleep
  • Depression sets in
  • Feels anxious and is always on guard
  • Loses interest in their hobbies or lacks the motivation to do it
  • Cannot show you affection
  • Heightened aggression
  • Avoids places and things that remind them of the trauma
  • Experiences flashbacks triggered by smells or sounds
  • Cannot tell which is real and which is their imagination
  • Trapped in reenacting and experiencing the traumatic event
  • Loses their interest in school
  • Doesn’t have the right level of concentration and focus
  • Constantly concerned about dying
  • Regressing to actions found in toddlers or babies, such as bedwetting or thumb sucking
  • Showing physical symptoms and pain

4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) And Its Signs

Unlike the previous mental illnesses that begin to manifest due to traumatic events or drastic changes in their lives, ADHD happens to be a disorder rooted in your child’s neurodevelopmental ability. Thus, your child will find difficulty handling school-related activities, as it affects their ability to take the information.

To help you and your family check whether your child has ADHD, here the three subtypes and their respective symptoms.

Predominantly Inattentive:

This type concerns your child’s inability to give adequate attention. Thus, an inattentive child shows the following signs:

  • Cannot give their full attention to an activity, therefore tend to make careless errors
  • Easily distracted during schoolwork or playing with classmates
  • Shift attention to something else, even when you emphasize you’re talking to them
  • Inability to fully follow the instructions you give, which at times results in incomplete work
  • Finds it challenging to organize a task or upcoming activities
  • Hates working on tasks that require their mental focus, like homework
  • Cannot keep equipment and tools necessary for their work or play activities
  • Forgets to accomplish tasks and chores delegated to them
  • Hyperactive and quickly act on their impulse
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Predominantly Hyperactive or Impulsive:

The signs for this type are related to hyperactivity and tendency to be impulsive such as the following:

  • Interrupting their peers’ conversations or games
  • Tends to overtake lines or not follow organized flows
  • Interrupts the questioner and uncontrollably says the first answer that comes to mind
  • Keeps talking
  • Screams or shouts during activities
  • Uncontrollable urge to run and climb even in inappropriate settings
  • Constantly wants to move around
  • Constantly moves either by fidgeting actions or moving their body while in place


  • Some complex cases have a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

4 Signs That Your Child May Have A Mental Health Disorder

If You Suspect Your Child Has a Mental Health Condition, You Should Do This

If you suspect your child to have any of the disorders above, it’s best to consult your child’s doctor. During the visit, describe your child’s behavior and why it’s a concern to you.

Whatever the result of the consultation is, it’s not enough as a parent to leave the care of your child to the doctors. You can do any of the following to help your child get through what they’re experiencing:

  • Coordinate with their school teachers to ensure their mental health is looked after at school as well
  • Always find time to praise your child’s accomplishments
  • Create a fun and relaxing environment for you and your child
  • Look and sign up for classes that help parents deal with children under mental illness
  • Always ask for professional advice to help cope and respond to the effects of the mental illness
  • Consider other forms of psychological treatment that involves all of the family


Learning about the different mental health conditions your child may experience is one thing. What’s important is to help them cope with it through professional treatment and support from you. It’s still best to let a professional diagnose your child after noticing some signs of any of the disorders above. That way, you’ll know how to deal with their condition properly to prevent it from worsening. Remember that mental health is vital for your child’s growth.