Introduction to Disorders of Childhood
We've created this survey of childhood mental and emotional disorders to help worried parents better understand the various ways that mental illness can effect children; what it looks like and how it can be helped. Children's mental and emotional disorders are problems that affect not only their behavior, emotions, moods, or thoughts, but can also affect the entire family as well. These problems are often similar to other types of health problems that your child might have, and can generally be treated with medications or psychotherapy (or a combination of both).
We're going to be using the term "childhood disorders" with some frequency. Many childhood disorders are often labeled as developmental disorders or learning disorders, so you may have heard those terms as well. Generally, when we speak about childhood disorders, we are referring to mental and emotional problems that most often occur and are diagnosed when children are school aged or younger. Usually, symptoms start during infancy or in early childhood, although some of the disorders may develop throughout adolescence.
The diagnostic criteria for the childhood disorders specifically require that symptoms first appear at some point during childhood. Adults may find themselves relating to some of the symptoms characteristic of one or more childhood disorders, but unless those adults first experienced their symptoms as children themselves, whatever it is that they may have will not be a childhood disorder, but instead, some other adult diagnosis.
Though by definition, no disorder discussed in this document may begin in adulthood, it is possible for a childhood disorder to begin at a young age but continue to be problematic on into adulthood. Conversely, some childhood disorders tend to resolve by the time children enter adulthood. Or, prior to adulthood, children may developed a set of coping skills that allow them to compensate for their disorder(s) so that they can go on to lead a happy and productive life. This latter outcome is especially likely when the right type of professional intervention has been obtained (and followed consistently) from an early age.