What Are the Most Common Psychological Disorders in Children?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2019
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Two common psychological disorders in children are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD), which are characterized by a child's inability to pay attention. Occupational defiant disorder is a condition in which a child displays negative behavior such as anger and disobedience over an extended period of time. Children also commonly suffer from depression, and there are risks that this condition will affect them later in life.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and attention deficit disorder are commonly found psychological disorders in children. These conditions may be difficult for some parents to identify because the symptoms are often mistaken as normal child behavior or misbehavior. Such symptoms include failure to pay attention, an inability to sit still, and being overly impulsive. Although these two conditions are similar in many ways, a notable difference is that ADHD is generally characterized by hyperactivity, which may not be the case for those suffering from ADD.

These conditions are sometimes dealt with using medication, but this is not always the case. In some instances, these disorders can be managed through measures such as additional support from parents and school staff, behavioral therapy, and focus on a child's diet. Parents should be aware, however, that it is a common, but fallacious, idea that children automatically outgrow these conditions.


Another of the conditions found among children is occupational defiant disorder (ODD). This condition is characterized by a child who is abnormally negative for his age for a period of at least six months. This may include behaviors such as the child losing his temper, defying rules or requests, and acting vindictive or spiteful. There is some disagreement in the medical community regarding the definition and characteristics of this problem, and it may go undiagnosed. It is commonly held that if a child's behavior can be diagnosed according to the criteria of another conduct disorder that diagnosis should be used.

Many children also experience separation anxiety disorder. This condition is often found among children raised in an environment where they are very close to their family members or care providers. When separated from these individuals, those with this condition will experience extreme levels of anxiety. Children with separation anxiety disorder may express a wide range of fears about tragic events occurring if they leave home or venture away from their parents. They may also pretend to be sick to avoid periods of separation.

Separation anxiety disorder is often a long-term condition. Parents should be aware that improvement is often followed by periods of recurrence of the problem later. This cycle may span a period of years if proper treatment is not sought and applied.

Another of the common psychological disorders in children is depression. A challenge presented to the parents of those affected by this problem is that children tend to deny it. Despite this, parents can look for suggestive symptoms, such as excessive crying, withdrawal, and loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable. It has been found that this condition affects both males and females, but tends to be higher among females who have reached puberty.

Depression in children is commonly treated with antidepressants, but medication may be avoidable in mild cases. Psychotherapy is also commonly used in lieu of or in addition to medication. This is another condition that children are at risk of continuing to deal with once they have reached adulthood.



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