All Posts Tagged: mood disorder

Suicidal Ideation – Does the 13 Reasons Why Series Influence Teen Suicide?

As a parent, are you aware that Netflix recently launched a new teen drama series based on the young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher? In the series, the main character, Hannah Murphy, commits suicide after experiencing a lethal combination of bullying by her peers, an incidence of stalking by a classmate, and the petty cruelty that can make life in high school a hell on Earth. The teen records a series of cassette tapes (these are her 13 reasons) which detail her motives for choosing suicide. On the day of her death, she mails the tapes to the thirteen classmates who influenced her suicide, in the hope they will listen to them and understand how their actions can affect others. While the Netflix series may open the door to frank discussion on several topics between the teens who watch it and their parents (suicide, bullying, stalking, rape, sex, and depression are addressed in the drama), there is concern that the show amounts to suicidal ideation by over-glamorizing suicide. And, because the drama is popular with teens, there are fears that it will increase the risk of vulnerable adolescents taking their own lives.

Furthermore, much younger children have access to this show, as well as to additional overwhelmingly adult-themed programs on Netflix and other online and streaming services. Because of the content of some shows like 13 Reasons Why, it is critical that caretakers use parental controls to block and prevent their children’s access to programming that is above the child’s content level.

Does Suicidal Ideation Raise Suicide Risk?

Across the country, many school districts have sent warnings to parents about the hit series, especially now that the drama has been renewed for a second season. In Colorado, where seven teens in one small locality have committed suicide since the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, the Douglas County School District temporarily removed all copies of 13 Reasons Why from its library shelves until it had a chance to review the content of the Jay Asher book.

Did they go too far? While we know that suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens, do we really know that books, movies, or television shows increase the risk of a certain behavior in impressionable teens? Is it possible that media coverage can spread “behavioral contagion,” which is defined as the situation in which the same behavior spreads quickly and spontaneously through a group?

The answer is unquestionably “yes,” according to Madelyn S. Gould, Ph.D., a psychiatrist at Columbia University. She states, “The magnitude of the increase [in the number of suicides] is proportional to the amount, duration, and prominence of media coverage. We know from a number of studies that the celebrity status of a suicide victim increases the impact of the suicide.”

In her abstract on the subject, Dr. Gould cites a study relating to suicidal ideation (Martin, G. 1996. The influence of television in a normal adolescent population. Arch. Suicide Res. 2: 103–117.) in which “students reporting frequent exposure to television suicide reported more suicide attempts.” This means that the glorification of a person’s death can present a compelling case for choosing death to a person who is already actively considering it. Add to that the feeling of being alone in their pain and the rapid sharing of condemnation and bullying via social media and, like Hannah in 13 Reasons Why, it’s possible a depressed teen might be pushed over the edge.

Suicide Warning Signs

Just as with an adult, adolescents who are considering teen suicide generally show unmistakable warning signs. In fact, four out of five teens who attempt to take their life give signals about their intent before their attempt.

These suicide warning signs can be:

  • Feeling down or depressed for more than a week or two
  • Sharing feelings of worthlessness, self-contempt, or of being hopeless and unsure of ever being happy again
  • Making jokes about dying or about suicide
  • Giving away possessions they formerly cared about deeply, such as favorite clothes or  mementos
  • Losing interest in activities or relationships they used to enjoy
  • Talking a lot about the suicide of someone important
  • Isolating themselves
  • May have insomnia or may over-sleep, may be lethargic
  • May exhibit extreme mood swings or have violent outbursts of grief or anger
  • May have had a significant recent loss (for example: they may have lost a close family member, been diagnosed with an serious illness, may have lost their freedom or security in some way)
  • Indulging in high-risk behavior, especially if this is not characteristic of the person
  • An increase in drug or alcohol use

Your teen needs to know you care about them and are taking them seriously. If your adolescent or teen exhibits some of these behaviors and you are concerned, either ask your child directly or have someone they trust ask them if they are considering suicide. It is okay to say the word “suicide” – simply using the word will not increase the chances of them acting on the idea.

If they are considering suicide, show empathy for their feelings and refrain from judging them. Enlist the aid of a mental health professional such as those at our Children’s Center, your child’s pediatrician, or a suicide crisis hotline. The crisis hotline is especially critical if your child is in imminent danger of attempting suicide.

Never leave your child alone if they are threatening suicide. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) in the United States.

Teen Depression? Our Children’s Center Can Help

If your child is showing signs of teen depression, don’t wait! Contact the experts at our child-focused Children’s Center for help. To reach the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida, call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Smoking Weed: Marijuana Facts for Teens

With the relaxing of possession laws in states like Colorado and Washington, and the legalization of medical marijuana in other states, parents have begun worrying more than ever about the availability of cannabis (also known as weed, pot, grass, marijuana) and whether their child might be smoking weed.

First the good news: while we know that teens are smoking pot, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), marijuana use has actually decreased slightly. Approximately 7.1 % of teens were smoking pot as of 2013, which is down from ten years earlier (in 2003), when about 8.2% of teens were using the drug.

Now the bad news: as of 2013, this same study reported that the first use of any illicit drug was marijuana, by just over 70% of participants. In fact, nearly 50% of teens and adolescents say that it would be fairly easy for them to obtain cannabis.

Cannabis Effects on Children, Adolescents, and Teens

For these at-risk kids, the following marijuana facts for teens may change their minds about smoking pot.

Cannabis effects on the developing brain and body:

  • Impairment of athletic performance due to cannabis’ effects on coordination and timing
  • Potential for addiction
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses
  • Developmental delays; trouble learning something new or focusing on difficult tasks
  • Coordination problems
  • Failure in school
  • Possible panic or psychosis when using the drug
  • Worsening of psychotic symptoms in people who already have schizophrenia
  • Altered judgement, increase in risky behaviors
  • Potential to abuse harder drugs, such as heroin

Marijuana Facts

First of all, you may be wondering is marijuana addictive? The short answer is “yes”. Generally speaking, about 1 out of every 11 cannabis users will become addicted, but that number increases to 1 out of every 6 people for those who begin using marijuana in their teens. In addition, daily use increases the rate of addiction to between 25% and 50% of cannabis abusers.

We also know that exposure to cannabis affects the brain. The brain receptors for the drug are located in the areas regulating memory, coordination, and learning, which is especially troubling for teens and adolescents since brain development continues into a person’s early twenties.

Failing in school is another one of the sad facts about weed. Because of marijuana’s effect on the brain, teens and adolescents who use pot are more likely to have lower grades in school, to drop out, and may even have a lower IQ as a result of smoking grass. And, their IQ might not improve even if they stop smoking weed as an adult.

Athletic performance can also be impaired because of cannabis’ effects on movement and coordination. In addition, skills like timing the kick for a soccer goal or swinging a bat in baseball can be compromised

Smoking Weed: Second-hand Smoke Impacts Children

For some reason, there is a misconception that second-hand pot smoke is not as dangerous to children as cigarette smoke. As more and more states are legalizing the use of cannabis, however, new studies are showing that it impacts children far more than people realize. Just as with tobacco smoke, the vapors released by smoking weed can increase the symptoms of a respiratory illness, aggravate asthma, and make children more likely to catch viruses. Also, it has been shown that a “contact high” can result from exposure to cannabis, which means a child who inhales the smoke from an adult may have problems with memory, have lower attention levels, and decreased motivation.

Additionally, marijuana metabolites can be detected in children who have been exposed to the second-hand smoke of their parents, siblings, and caregivers. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis, has also been found in breast milk. This raises the possibility of decreased motor development in the infant of a mother who uses grass.

Safe Storage of Cannabis

Now that some states legally allow adults over the age of 21 to possess a certain amount of marijuana, there has been an increase in accidental ingestion by children. For this reason, if you are using cannabis, always be sure to:

  • Store the drug (as well as any vitamins or medicines) away in a place that is high up and out of reach of your child.
  • Think about getting a lock box to store your medications and drugs. Be sure to keep the key in a different place, away from the box.
  • Never leave the drug or any medications out, even if you will be using them again soon. Keeping potentially harmful substances out of the reach of kids helps keep them safe.
  • Talk to your guests and to the parents of children whose homes your own kids may visit about keeping their marijuana hidden and locked away.
  • Be prepared to contact the Poison Help Center at (800) 222-1222 if you think a child may have ingested cannabis products.

Let Our Children’s Center Help

If your child is smoking weed, contact the professionals at our child-focused department to learn more about the Children’s Center’s parenting support services. To reach the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida, call us today at (561) 223-6568.

 

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Maternity Leave – Tips for Going Back to Work after Baby

Going back to work after maternity leave is one of the hardest things for a new mother to do. You carried your bundle of joy for nine months and had time off from your job to bond with your child.  It can be difficult to turn them over to strangers at a day care center and be separated from your child for an eight-hour period or longer when you’re used to taking care of their every need. And, even if you know the babysitter – maybe it’s your mother-in-law, a friend, or a trusted neighbor – new parents will still go through an adjustment period when maternity leave ends and mom return to their job.

The end of maternity leave means new routines and more work to do. Now you not only have to get yourself up and out to work, you need to get another person ready to go as well. There are clothes and toys, diapers, and possibly special foods or medicines to prepare and pack for the work day. The household chores still need to be done, not to mention tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, or trips to the pediatrician. Deciding which parent will take care of which tasks after the end of maternity leave can be a job all by itself.

Additionally, some new mothers go through postpartum depression. Returning to work can add to their symptoms of crying, mood swings, loss of appetite, the inability to bond with their baby, and the guilt that accompanies this type of depression. If your postpartum depression symptoms don’t lessen after two weeks or if they are getting worse, be sure to call your doctor. Postpartum depression can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two.

Easing Back into your Job After Maternity Leave

Many working moms experience feel guilty when they leave their child with someone else. They may also feel inadequate for not being a “superwoman” capable of handling the stresses of a new baby, new routines, and a new “normal.”

Surprisingly, there are few resources that address the anxiety and emotions that going back to work after maternity leave can bring up for a new parent. This period has been called the “fifth trimester,” a term trademarked by Lauren Smith Brody, a former Glamour magazine executive editor. She struggled with returning to work and ultimately wrote a book that helps new parents manage their expectations. She describes the shift from maternity leave to working mom as “a monumental transition.”

One of the best ways to help ease this maternity leave transition is to set things in place before the baby comes.

  • Research and arrange for childcare. If you have a babysitter instead of a daycare center, also set up a back-up plan in case the babysitter is ever sick.
  • If you plan to breastfeed, talk to your boss to arrange a schedule and set aside a private area for pumping.
  • Establish and practice your morning routine a couple of times, at least a week or two before going back to work. Actually wake up at the time you’ll need to get up for work, then eat, dress, and get your baby ready to go. Build in some “glitch time” for occasions like when the baby spits up just as you’re ready to leave or for the day you can’t find your keys.
  • Decide on temporary compromises you can make when going back to work after baby. Maybe you can go to sleep earlier, eat prepared meals once or twice a week instead of cooking, or let that load of laundry go until the weekend when you’re more rested.
  • Ask for help. Working moms are essentially doing two jobs: their actual employment job and the work of being a mother. It is not a sign of weakness to ask your spouse, family, or friends for help while you go through this transition.
  • Avoid venting at work about the stress you may be feeling at home. That way, your boss doesn’t get the idea that you can’t handle the pressure and start worrying that you’ll quit.
  • Be kind to yourself. Get in some exercise time to reduce stress (even a little goes a long way), get plenty of rest, and try to spend 15-30 minutes every couple of days just doing something for yourself.

It can be challenging to be a new mother going back to work after baby. Working moms must find the balance that allows them to hold a job and still maintain their pre-baby life, along with preserving their sanity.

Remember that the transition after maternity leave takes time. If you are finding this transition more difficult than you thought, give yourself an adjustment period. If you still can’t handle it after this interval passes, it might be time to try working with your boss to discuss other options (example: working from home a couple of days per week) that can allow you to have a realistic balance.

Concerns? We Can Help

If you have concerns about  going back to work after maternity leave or if you are worried you may have postpartum depression, contact the therapists at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Help for School Refusal

For some children, going to school can be emotionally traumatic. Their school anxiety may stem from such things as their dread of encountering a particular child or teacher, their worry about not doing well in school, or the fear of failing a test or “looking stupid.” While many of these worries are a normal part of growing up, they may also be triggered by stressful events like moving, changing schools, or being bullied.

Just about every child goes through a day here and there when they don’t want to go to school,  but the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that about 2-5% of children regularly experience school refusal due to severe stress or emotional concerns. School refusal is not the same as truancy: truant children skip school, then go out to play. They aren’t afraid of going to school and they try to hide their absence from school from their parents.

On the other hand, children experiencing a school refusal disorder will stay home (where it is safe), are fearful of going to school, and will try to talk their parents into letting them stay home. Often, the children with school avoidance also suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, depression, or panic disorders.

Symptoms of School Refusal

School refusal is most common in children ages five, six, ten, and eleven, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The pattern of rejecting school isn’t the same for every child. Some kids will go off to school without a problem, but become more anxious as they get closer to the building. Some children have no trouble until a holiday comes up, then they become depressed or anxious when the time comes to go back to school. Others will go to school willingly, but frequently ask to visit the school nurse. Still others are chronically tardy, skip a certain class most days, or simply decline to go to school.

Frequently allowing your child to stay home from school keeps them from learning and advancing with their peers. Additionally, a child’s symptoms may increase or they may suffer from additional symptoms the longer they stay out of school.

Just as school refusal patterns aren’t the same for each child, the symptoms of school anxiety can be different, as well. Your child may experience some of these signs of school refusal:

  • Sleep issues
  • Temper tantrums, defiance
  • Crying or exhibiting fearfulness
  • Panic symptoms
  • Threats to harm themselves if they have to go to school
  • Headaches, stomach aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Separation anxiety

School Anxiety Treatment

School refusal is best treated as a collaborative effort. The first objective is to get the child back into the classroom because the longer they stay out of school, the harder it can be to go back.

With that goal in mind, the child’s physician should do a thorough exam to be sure any physical complaints, such as headaches and abdominal pain, don’t stem from a medical condition. Once medical concerns have been ruled out, your child’s teacher will be asked to evaluate for behavioral issues and things like problems with report cards and tests, or the possibility of the child being bullied.

Armed with this information, a child psychologist or other mental health professional will evaluate your child to look for any emotional or psychiatric difficulties. These results, combined with the medical and school evaluations will help them develop the most effective plan of treatment.

School refusal can be addressed through several types of psychological therapy. For example, exposure therapy can ease your child back into school by allowing them (with cooperation from the school) to attend school part of the day and gradually increasing the time they spend there.

Cognitive behavior therapy can teach the child how to change their destructive behavior patterns. This therapy helps them develop coping techniques, and challenge their negative thoughts through strategies like role playing, relaxation techniques, and guided imagery. Operant behavior techniques can also be used to reward the child for attending or staying in school.

If your child’s school anxiety is new, often working with the teacher to identify and eliminate triggers can be enough to reverse it. However, if the school refusal has become significant, the therapies discussed above offer excellent outcomes for getting your child back into the classroom.

Our Children’s Center Can Help

For more information about how a child psychologist can help with your child’s school avoidance, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568

Resources:

American Academy of Family Physicians: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1555.html

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/school-refusal

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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – Boy Patted Down by TSA

Recently, an angry mother took a disturbing video in which a TSA agent in the Dallas airport pats down her special needs boy who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Furious, she posted the video online, where it has been watched well over five million times as of this writing. The boy was patted down by TSA despite the mother’s request for an alternate screening method due to her son’s SPD.

Until this video surfaced, many people had never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder. It is a relatively uncommon disorder that is diagnosed in about 2.5% of children. Another estimated 10 – 20% of children do not have the disorder, but will suffer from some of the symptoms of SPD.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that interferes with how a person processes the information they receive from their senses of smell, sight, touch, hearing, taste, and even from their sense of movement or their perception of body position. People with SPD perceive the same things as other people, however their brains process the information differently which may cause them discomfort, confusion, or distress.

Sensory skills are used for social interaction, attention and focus, and motor skills. Everyone has preferences – they dislike a certain odor or perhaps they can’t concentrate when sounds are present. But, people with Sensory Processing Disorder fall on the extreme end of the spectrum. For these people, SPD disrupts their emotional and physical development and can affect their behavior and the way they learn. Children with SPD often have challenges performing routine tasks because their senses may overwhelm them or may cause them to respond inappropriately.

A great example of a child who may have SPD is one who will only eat two or three foods and flatly refuse to eat anything else. While you may think they are simply picky eaters, their food aversion may possibly come from the fact that they don’t taste food the same way you do – it may be extremely bitter or your child may be repelled by the texture of the food.

In the past, SPD was known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction and the names are often used interchangeably. Right now, researchers aren’t sure what causes SPD, although some studies indicate it may have a genetic component.

SPD Symptoms

Sensory Processing Disorder comes with a variety of indicators that are unique to each person who has the condition. Some people may have just a couple of SPD symptoms and others may experience a wide range of them. Additionally, it is not unusual for a child to experience symptoms one day and not the next. An extensive list of SPD indicators can be found on the Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder website.

Help for Sensory Processing Disorder

The brain is constantly evaluating information and sometimes certain stimuli will disrupt normal brain function. Overloading yourself or depriving yourself of sensory stimulation can change how you perceive things on a day to day basis. Keep in mind that just because a child has some of the symptoms of SPD, it doesn’t mean they actually have the disorder.

Rather, if you have concerns, being aware of the symptoms of SPD can be a way to open a dialogue with your child’s pediatrician, an occupational therapist, or your child’s mental health professional. There are many ways to help people who have challenges with SPD, but these methods vary with the person’s symptoms and the degree in which they suffer from the condition.

Some ways in which people with Sensory Processing Disorder have been helped are through:

  • Dietary changes
  • Listening programs designed to help people who have auditory challenges
  • Vision therapy
  • Sensory therapy in which certain activities are repeated daily until the person has learned to self-regulate their sensory perceptions
  • Desensitization therapy

Our Children’s Center Can Help

If you have questions or concerns about Sensory Processing Disorder and how your child responds to stimuli, the professionals at our child-focused department, The Children’s Center, can help. For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Vaccines and Autism – Is There a Connection?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that autism, classified as a developmental disability, is on the rise in the United States and around the world. Currently, about 1 child out of every 68 will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Obviously, when there is an increase in a disorder or disability, people begin to look for reasons for that change. Because signs of ASD can be seen as early as the age of two, the focus has been on potential factors a child may experience early in life that could contribute to an autism diagnosis. From birth, children receive many and varied immunizations, so fears have been raised of a possible connection between these vaccines and autism.

In particular, there have been concerns about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that had been used in MMR and other inoculations. Since 2003, nine studies have been conducted into the relationship between thimerosal and ASD, however the Institute of Medicine has determined there is no link between the vaccine and the development of autism.

In reaction to fears over whether thimerosal in vaccines and autism were related, between 1999 and 2001, the preservative was either removed from vaccines or reduced to negligible amounts. Today, this preservative is only found in some flu vaccines and is limited to use in multi-dose vials. If you are still worried, you can request your child receive a thimerosal-free vaccine.

Lastly, a 2013 study by the CDC determined there is no link between vaccines and autism. It looked at the number of antigens that help the body’s immune system fight disease and found no difference between children with ASD and children without the disorder.

Then, What Causes Autism?

There are many categories of disability along the autism spectrum and, at this time, specialists haven’t found any one specific reason for the development of autism. The CDC is conducting research to find out if the disorder has environmental, biological, or genetic causes.

We do know there are factors that can indicate a more likely chance of a child developing autism. These components are:

  • Children with autistic siblings are more likely to develop the disability.
  • Children born to older parents are more likely to be at risk.
  • It is thought that the critical developmental time for ASD is in utero, or in the period during or immediately after birth.
  • The prescription medicines valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked to a higher ASD risk in the infant, when these medications were taken during the pregnancy.
  • ASD occurs more often in people who have certain chromosomal or genetic conditions (for example: Fragile X Syndrome).

Early Signs of Autism

Autism can affect either gender, but occurs about 4.5 times more often in males than in females. It is found in every cultural, socioeconomic, and racial background, although it is more prevalent in white children than in African-American or Hispanic children.

People with ASD may have problems communicating or interacting with others, or may have difficulty focusing or learning. Additionally, early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder may include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of interest in objects or in relating to people
  • Becoming upset if routines change
  • Unusual reactions to stimuli, such as smells, tastes, textures, or sounds
  • Repeating words or phrases or repeating actions over and over
  • Preferring to spend time by themselves

Diagnosis, Evaluation, and ASD Treatment

The earlier a child is diagnosed and begins treatment, the better their chances of reaching their full potential. ASD treatment and early intervention can begin as soon as 3 months of age. Although there is no cure for ASD, early intercession can reduce the severity of a child’s developmental delays and can teach them important skills.

If you are concerned about your child and the way they interact with you or others, the way they learn, or the way they speak or act, the first step is to call your child’s pediatrician and share your worries. Your child’s doctor can help answer your questions and, if alarmed, should refer you to specialists for further evaluation. Psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists, and/or developmental pediatricians have been specially trained to assess and diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder.

If you need a free assessment, you can contact your state’s early intervention programs. To find out more about your particular state’s Child Find evaluation, visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Our Children’s Center Can Help

If you have questions about the early signs of autism, treatment and intervention, or other autism-related concerns, the professionals at our child-focused department, The Children’s Center, can help. For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Children’s Mental Health – Psychiatric Help for Children

While we tend to think of childhood as a carefree time of life, the fact is that many children suffer from mental conditions and disorders, just the same as adults. Among other things, children’s mental health concerns can include emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders such as eating disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHA), and autism. And, similar to adults, children can be impacted by conditions like anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Additionally, as children grow and mature into young adults, they can develop other problems associated with adolescence, such as underage drinking and substance abuse.

Left untreated, any of these conditions or disorders can result in difficulties with making friends, and behavior issues in school and at home. What is most troubling, however, is that research has shown that a majority of adult mental disorders start early in life. This makes it critical that children’s mental health conditions be caught promptly and treated appropriately.

Symptoms of Child Psychological Disorders

Child psychological disorders and conditions can affect any ethnic group, and income level, and those living in any region of the country. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites a study from a National Research Council and Institute for Medicine report that estimates about 1 in 5 children across the United States will experience a mental disorder in any given year.

Symptoms often change as a child grows and matures, so the signs of a problem may be difficult to spot in the early stages. Often, parents are the first to recognize that there is an issue with their children’s emotions or behavior, however problems may also be brought to your attention by your child’s educators or another adult who knows your child well. Some general signs to look for include:

  • Marked decline in school performance
  • Strong worries or anxiety that causes problems at home or at school
  • Random, frequent physical aches and pains, such as headaches or an upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
  • Marked changes in eating habits
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having low or no energy
  • Aggressive behavior, disobedience, and/or confrontations with or defiance of authority figures
  • Temper tantrums or outbursts of anger
  • Thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming themselves or others

Psychiatric Help for Children

  • Please get immediate assistance if you think your child may be in danger of harming themselves or someone else.  Call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

Getting psychiatric help for children, in the form of early diagnosis and receiving the correct treatment, is essential for your child’s well being, both now and throughout their life.

If your child’s problems persist across a variety of settings (for example: home, school, and with peers), some of the steps to get help include:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling. Find out if they would like to discuss a problem with you or another adult. Actively listen to their responses and concerns.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician, school counselor or school nurse, or a mental health professional if you see behaviors or problems in your child or teen that worry you.
  • Seek evaluation from a specialist who deals with children’s mental health concerns.
  • Ask the specialist if they have experience with treating the problem or behavior you see in your child.
  • Don’t delay in seeking help – early treatment generally gives better results.

Children can be treated in a variety of settings that range from one-on-one (or with a parent) sessions with a mental health professional to a group setting with a therapist and the child’s peers. Talk therapy can help change behaviors and may be used in combination with other treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective in helping children learn coping strategies so they can change unhealthy behavior patterns and distorted thinking. Additionally, medications may be recommended for disorders such as ADHD or may be given for other types of severe or difficult cases.

Need More Information on Children’s Mental Health?

If you have questions or need more information about psychiatric help for children, we can help. For more information, contact The Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology, & Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-223-6568.

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Child Anxiety – Divorce Therapy for Children

Going through a divorce is stressful enough for the couple involved, but when children are added to the mix, it can bring a youngster’s fears to the forefront and trigger a cycle of child anxiety. The youth suddenly finds his or her world fracturing apart as the family divides into separate households. And, often the child has to adjust to living in a new home or going to a new school in addition to coping with their parent’s split.

Among other things, a divorce can increase a child’s aggression, bring up issues of separation anxiety, and negatively impact either (or both) the social and school performances of the youngster. It also increases the stress levels in children who already suffer from anxiety issues or mood disorders and can initiate anxiety-related concerns in children who do not normally have them.

Helping Children Cope with Divorce

When parents divorce, their children often react by showing:

  • Regressive behaviors (bedwetting, tantrums, thumb sucking, refusing to go to bed)
  • Rebellious behaviors (anger, disobedience, or (in an older child) disregard for the parents)
  • Increased episodes of crying or whining
  • Feel “sick” when they are healthy or becoming clingy
  • Separation anxiety
  • Blaming themselves for the divorce

The following are some ways that you, as a parent, can help diffuse some of the tension and child anxiety when going through a divorce:

  • Respect your child’s feelings and encourage them to talk to you about their fears. You may not have all the answers, but sometimes just listening and being supportive to your child can be enough.
  • Remember that your child has lost something, too. They have lost their time with one parent when they are with the other parent and, in many cases, have lost their familiar surroundings, peers, and maybe even a beloved pet or best friend.
  • Reassure your child that, no matter what, you love them now and will always love them. Be sure they understand that the divorce was not their fault and that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it.
  • Try to keep the same routines for bedtime, homework, play time, etc. New routines might need to be added (for example: going to the other parent’s house every Friday night), but keeping as close as possible to the same schedule helps children feel secure. It lets them know what to expect.
  • Rituals also create a sense of safety for your child. A family ritual such as “game night” creates an anchor for your child and gives them a sense of familiarity and a way to relate within their new world.

How Divorce Therapy for Children Can Help

Many times children will adjust to the breakup of a marriage after a “settling in” period, but in the case of youngsters who already have some anxiety, therapy might be the answer to helping children cope with divorce.

Divorce therapy for children is usually conducted through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of treatment is based on the theory that our thoughts cause our behavior and our resulting feelings – other people do not cause them. By understanding this and learning to modify our reactions, we can influence our emotions in a positive way so we can feel better about things we can not change. Becoming aware of inaccurate or negative thinking allows your child to change to a more positive way of thinking in order to decrease their anxiety.

Need More Information?

Is your child struggling with your divorce? We offer divorce therapy for children in a safe, supportive South Florida environment. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-223-6568.

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Children and the Benefits of Mindfulness Training

These days, children often have stressors that come at them from all directions. Schools are sending more homework and projects home with children, kids are busy after school with extra-curricular sports and activities, and there are video games, social media, and cell phones all competing for their attention. In addition, they may have to deal with being picked on at school or may be coping with the pressures of divorcing parents or the arrival of a new sibling in the home. With all that kids have to contend with, it’s no wonder that children who engage in mindfulness exercises tend to be happier kids who are more able to self-regulate and calm themselves during periods of stress.

What is Mindfulness?

What is mindfulness, anyway? According to experts in the field, mindfulness is defined as “paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

Mindfulness helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus. It allows children to choose a calmer, practiced response to stressors instead of throwing a tantrum or losing control. It teaches them to be conscious of how their emotions “show up” in their bodies (in the form of headaches, stomachaches, nightmares etc), and helps them understand that their thoughts are “just thoughts.” Children who undergo mindfulness training become adept at recognizing when their attention has wandered and learn to implement tools for impulse control.

How Can Mindfulness Training Help Your Child?

There is a growing body of research that indicates mindfulness training can help children improve their ability to calm down when they are stressed or upset, learn to pay attention and become more focused, increase their ability to concentrate, and learn to make better decisions.

Mindfulness activities for children can also help with:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anger issues and separation anxiety
  • Coping with increased life stressors
  • Anxiety at school (for example: test taking or athletic performance)
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Learning compassion and acceptance for themselves and others
  • Breaking the cycle of worry before it turns into full-blown anxiety or panic attacks

Mindfulness Activities for Children

If you would like to help your children learn to become more mindful, there are a few things to take into account when teaching them. First, remember to take the age of the child into consideration and keep the mindfulness sessions short until they get used to practicing it. Also, make the practice times age appropriate – limit them to about five minutes or less, particularly for younger children. Praise your child for the effort they put into their mindfulness exercises and reward them with hugs and cuddles or by doing something they want to do together afterward.

Try these exercises to help your child practice being more mindful:

  • Belly breathing – Have your child put one hand on their tummy and one hand on their heart. Have them take a deep breath in for a slow count of 3 and then breathe out again to another slow count of 3. They should repeat this deep breathing exercise at least three to five times to feel calmer in times of stress. For younger children, it can be helpful to have them lie down and place a small stuffed animal on their stomach while breathing in and out during the exercise. As they focus on watching the stuffed animal rise and fall with their breathing, they learn how to breathe from their belly.
  • “Cool Your Food” breathing – Have your child breathe in through their nose and blow their breath out of their mouth as if they were trying to cool down hot food. Repeat this 5-10 times, very slowly.
  • Listen to the sounds around you – An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is to focus on paying attention to what they can hear. Take a walk and listen to the birds chirping, lawn mowers mowing, or the wind blowing. You can also download phone apps that have calming waterfalls or nature sounds and have your child listen to see what they can hear (for example: are there frogs croaking or birds chirping in the background?)
  • Mindful Playtime – Finger paints or coloring books offer great ways for children to be mindful. As they color, ask your child how the crayons smell or how the finger paint feels against their hands. What do the colors they are using mean to them? Can they hear the crayon or pencil scratching against the paper or the paint swishing as they swirl it across the paper?
  • Ring a bell – or chimes or perhaps strike a note on a piano (or use a phone app that has these sounds on it) and have your child listen carefully to the sound of the tone until it gradually fades away and stops.
  • Practice gratitude – Have your child tell you one or two things they were grateful for today. You can have them do this at dinner time or just before they go to bed. Tell them what you are grateful for, as well!

Learn More

We have mindfulness programs for both adults and children at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. To find out more about these programs, call us at 561-223-6568 or contact us here.

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