Spot the signs of mental illness in children

Spot the signs of mental illness in children

Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, but we tend to associate them with adults more than children. This is because adults are more likely to express their feelings and let on that they have mental health issues. You’ll often come across an adult saying they’re depressed or have anxiety, but it’s incredibly rare to hear a child say any of these things.

More to the point, adults are more aware of mental health compared to kids. Children aren’t taught about mental illness, so they have no idea when they’re suffering. However, the fact remains that children do still suffer from a range of mental health problems, often from a young age. As such, you have lots of kids with mental issues that don’t know they’ve got problems so can’t ask for help. This leads to the issues developing even deeper, and they grow up with severe mental health problems that are harder to cure.

Keeping all this in mind, I think it’s important we learn the telltale signs of mental illness in children. If you have kids of your own, you will find this incredibly useful for caring for their health. It’s also handy if you work with kids as a childminder, teacher, nanny, and so on.

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Mood Swings Before School

Children can suffer from a range of different mental health disorders. However, anxiety disorders are probably the most common. This includes general anxiety, fear of social situations, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. A child that has any mental issues related to anxiety are likely to experience severe mood swings, particularly in the morning before school. They could be happy in the evening, still be a bit happy when they wake up, then all of a sudden flip when you get near the school gates. They don’t want to go in, they don’t want to go to school, and they’re visibly upset every morning.

Children who have anxiety don’t like going to school because it triggers their mental illness. The stress of working combined with being forced into social situations causes feelings they don’t like. Naturally, they have no idea what these feelings mean, they just know they don’t like them, and that they get them at school. So, they don’t want to go at all.

If you see your child or a child you work with, get really upset every morning before school, it could be a sign of a mental health disorder. Thankfully, kids can get help overcoming anxiety to the point where they’re comfortable going to school. As with all health issues – mental or physical – the sooner it’s treated, the easier it is to overcome.

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Bad Concentration

In general, young children aren’t the best at concentrating when they’re doing school work. However, the older they get, the better they become at this. Furthermore, they might struggle to concentrate when doing work, but they’ll concentrate fine when doing something they love.

But, if you come across a child that can’t sit still for more than a few seconds, regardless of what they’re doing, it could be a sign of a mental health problem. Primarily, it’s a sign of a highly common disorder called ADHD. I’m sure you’ve heard of this before, it’s when children have problems with their attention and are very hyperactive. They can’t help it, but it’s a problem that affects their lives and can make it hard for them to go to school as they distract others and don’t do any work.

Now, you do still find some adults with this problem, but it’s more common in children. This is purely because adults that had this issue as a kid probably got help to deal with it. As they grew up, they learned to control their symptoms and not let ADHD damage their life. If you spot a child that seriously struggles to concentrate, it could be because they have this mental illness.

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Changes To Their Eating Habits

A lot of people don’t realize this, but eating disorders fall under the category of mental illness. Anyone with an eating disorder is affected by a problem in their mind that forces them to think a certain way about how they eat. This leads to people either over or under eating. Eating disorders are common in children, particularly young girls.

The biggest telltale sign of an eating disorder is a change in the child’s eating habits. If you notice a child suddenly stops eating their food or is constantly binging, it may be a problem. Lack of eating is perhaps the most serious sign here, as it’s very unusual for a child to just stop eating. A change in eating habits is normally accompanied by physical changes such as rapid weight loss or gain. Look out for both as it could be a warning sign.

As mentioned before, dealing with a mental issue earlier in someone’s life will yield the best results. It’s important you step in and take action if you see your child change their eating habits dramatically. Talk to them, see why they’re not eating, and take them to get professional help.

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Social Awkwardness

Normally, children are more than happy to talk away to anyone they meet. If you have kids and have ever taken a bus journey with them, you’ll know they love talking to strangers. Children don’t tend to be socially awkward, which is why a child showing signs of this should be questioned.

A socially awkward child can be a sign of mental health problems such as Aspergers or autism. Issues like these can later develop and cause feelings of depression or anxiety, so they should be taken seriously.

My advice is to watch how your child interacts with other kids, are they playful, do they sit on their own, do they look awkward? If they seem to have trouble talking to anyone or interacting with others, it might be worth seeing a doctor and taking autism tests.

Spot the signs of mental illness in children, and you can help deal with issues before they develop. Share this article with other parents or people that work closely with kids. It’s important we figure out mental health problems from a young age!




  1. This is very informative and really helpful, especially to a first-time mom like me. I need to watch out for these signs as my child grows up. I really take mental illness seriously and I don’t want my child to suffer such condition at a young age.

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