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Mental Disorders and Illness in Children, Teens and Young Adults

Mental disorders are often hard to diagnose in children and teenagers, especially when the signs are not as severe. Many mental disorders are not treated.

mental health children teens diagnosingAccording to a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH, roughly 20 percent of U.S. youth will be affected by a mental illness during their lifetime. Mental disorders range in severity and may affect the individual only slightly or may be so extreme it can lead to devastating consequences.

A severe mental disorder left undiagnosed can lead to the individual performing harmful and illegal acts; such as assault and public shootings. In the spotlight right now is the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the young man who fired a gun on a crowd in a Tuscon, Arizona Safeway grocery store. Background information on Mr. Loughner paints the profile of a young man with a mental disorder that was never diagnosed or treated.

In his case, CNN reports that school-workers and fellow students noted his erratic behaviors and anger issues, but nothing was ever done to get him the help he needed. Had Jared's condition been properly diagnosed, the Safeway incident may very well have been avoided.

Statistics of Children and Young Adults Suspected of Having a Mental Disorder


The study, published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, surveyed more than 10,000 teens between the ages of 13 to 18. Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D,. of NIMH and her colleagues aimed at determining what the lifetime prevalence of mental disorders was among teenagers.

The team discovered nearly half of the sample met the criteria for having at least one mental disorder and 20 percent of the people reported symptoms severe enough to impair their daily lives. 11 percent reported being severely impaired by a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Behavior disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorder affected another 10 percent in a severe manner. 8 percent of the participants admitted to being severely impaired by an anxiety disorder.

More Than One Mental Disorder and Progression of Mental Illness in Children and Teens


The survey also showed that 40 percent of the participants who reported having a mental disorder, also met the criteria necessary for other mental illnesses. Individuals with mood disorders were more likely than other individuals to have a coexisting disorder.


Researchers believe that mental illness begins early in life, in the childhood years. Anxiety disorders often begin appearing by age six, behavior disorders begin showing up by age 11. By age 13, mood disorders emerge and substance abuse by age 15. Many teenagers and young adults who do not get their mental disorders diagnosed and treated, are likely to self-medicate by using alcohol and illicit drugs.

Dr. Katherine Harris, Ph.D,. of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Mark J. Edlund of the Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research, indicate that self-medicating does increase when mental disorders needs are not met. Further to their findings, they believe that mental disorders that are discovered in a timely fashion would help prevent the development of substance-use disorders.

Public Shootings and Murder Resulting From Mental Disorders


The Jared Loughner case is only one example of a mental disorder that was overlooked and had a very unfortunate outcome. The Columbine shootings, Virginia Tech and Colin Ferguson are some other examples of mentally ill individuals who acquired guns and put the public in harm's way, reports Katie Couric of CBS News.

Identifying mental disorders is the key to implementing proper treatments to get the illness under control. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders and even school-ground bullying can progress if left untreated. Caregivers concerned about their child's mental state of mind should contact their health care professional right away to complete a full evaluation and to discuss medication and treatment options.

Natural Remedies to Help Promote Good Mental Health:


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