The main question that many parents have of the psychiatrist is when
should they seek psychiatric care for their child. This is a question that
is not easy to answer, and the decision to seek professional help for a
child can be complex. The parents should discuss the child's symptoms
with professionals, such as school teachers, school counselors,
psychologists, clergy, and if they feel that a child would be helped by
psychotherapy or medication treatment, the parents should seek the
assistance of a psychiatrist.
Psychiatric disorders in children are much more
difficult to diagnose and treat than they are in adults.
This is because, for one thing, the mind and the brain are
not fully developed and what appear to be symptoms
of emotional problems in a child may be anything from
normal childhood behavior to serious mental illness.
Treatment is also more difficult as many of the
techniques used in adults are less appropriate for
younger children whose minds and brains are not
There are certain signs that should make a parent aware that psychiatric
help may be necessary: a fall in school performance, change in behavior,
changes in patterns of sleep or eating, significant changes in the types of
friends that the child associates with, changes in weight without dieting
or increased attention to weight. Of course, any symptoms of depression
or thoughts of death should be looked upon very seriously. Symptoms
of ADHD are oftentimes first noticed by teachers or counselors and
should also alert the parents to the possible need for a consultation.
Any use of drugs or alcohol must be addressed immediately. There are
many other symptoms of emotional problems with which a child can
present and the review of these with a psychiatrist is important.
The doctors do accept some children for treatment who require
psychotherapy with or without limited medication treatment. As with
adults, children are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Children, as well
as adults, requiring urgent or emergency treatment should generally be
taken to a hospital.
Children and Adolescents
Diagnosis and Treatment of Children and Adolescents from Age 3 to 18