When to Seek Mental Health Treatment for Your Child

Knowing when to seek treatment for mental health disorders is important for parents and families.

Many times, parents are the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors and / or environmental conditions that cause them to act out, rebel, and feel sad or anxious. It is also important to know that persons of different ages will exhibit different symptoms and behaviors. Families who suspect their child has issues in one or more of these areas should seek help. Treatment for mental health disorders is both available and effective. 

Becoming familiar with the common maladaptive behaviors of teenaged children will often help parents identify any problems early, in their most treatable state.

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and / or developmental problem in a child, which may indicate a need for a mental health evaluation.

Symptoms may include:

  • Significant decline in school performance or poor grades
  • Withdrawal from activities, friends, family
  • Sleep disturbances (night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • Excessive hyperactivity
  • Continuous or frequent aggression or "acting out"
  • Continuous or frequent rebellion; opposition to authority and direction
  • Refusal to attend school on a regular or frequent basis
  • Refusal to take part in school and / or family activities
  • Excessive worry and / or anxiety
  • Excessive, frequent temper tantrums
  • Sexualized behaviors or play

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and / or developmental problem in a teen, which may indicate a need for a mental health evaluation. 

Symptoms may include:

  • Significant decline in school performance or poor grades
  • Withdrawal from activities, friends, family
  • Substance (alcohol and drugs) abuse
  • Changes in sleep patterns or sleep disturbances
  • Depression (poor mood, negativity, mood swings)
  • Changes in eating habits (refusal to eat, excessive eating, food rituals, bingeing, purging)
  • Continuous or frequent aggression or "acting out"
  • Destructive behaviors (vandalism, criminal activity)
  • Frequent rebellion; opposition to authority and direction
  • Skipping school
  • Lying or cheating
  • Frequent anger
  • Excessive worry and / or anxiety
  • Self-harm behaviors
  • Threats to self or others
  • Thoughts and / or talk of suicide
  • Running away or threatening to run away
  • Sexually "acting out"
  • Many physical complaints

For additional information on this Health Topic, call the Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 513-636-4124.


Last Updated 06/2015