5 All-Too-Common Mental Health Disorders In Kids And Teens

And the treatments that can help get them back on track.

1. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD has a spectrum of symptoms, says Robert Seaver, MD, a Mount Kisco child psychiatrist. “Some children are distractible and inattentive, while others can be impulsive and hyperactive.” ADHD has a strong genetic component, but environmental factors can worsen symptoms. Often, treatment includes medication, says Dr. Seaver, but psychotherapy and family counseling are also sometimes recommended.

2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

“Obsessions are repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts,” Dr. Seaver explains. “Compulsions are actions you feel you have to take to prevent something bad from happening.” Common obsessions may revolve around germs, illness, or the potential for others to be harmed, while compulsions may include arranging items symmetrically or doing things over until they’re “just right.” Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help, and medication is also sometimes warranted, Dr. Seaver says.

3. Depression 

A primary symptom of depression is a persistently sad mood that lasts at least two weeks and interferes with daily functioning, says Stacey Slater, PhD, a Chappaqua psychologist. Other symptoms may include sleep difficulties, poor concentration, weight changes, and withdrawal from normal activities. Depressed teens are also at higher risk for destructive behaviors such as cutting themselves or using alcohol or drugs. “A combination of CBT and supportive psychotherapy is often an effective treatment,” she says. Medication may also be necessary.

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4. Anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying, says Rena Schwartzbaum, PsyD, a Scarsdale-based psychologist. Common areas of concern include academic performance and social acceptance. “Anxiety can impair sleep, affect eating, and produce physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches,” Dr. Schwartzbaum says. “There can also be heart palpitations or shortness of breath.” Once underlying medical causes are ruled out, CBT can be very effective, sometimes in combination with medication.

5. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

“Children with ODD don’t cooperate, have temper tantrums, and tend to blame others,” says Dr. Seaver. Treatment includes testing for other disorders, since addressing those may reduce ODD symptoms as well. CBT can be an effective treatment, he notes, along with family therapy and, in some cases, medication.

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