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 him or her to act disrupted, rebellious or sad.

This may include, but is not limited to: problems with relationships with friends and / or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness and responsiveness.

It is also important to know that persons of different ages will exhibit different symptoms and behaviors. Familiarizing yourself with the common maladaptive behaviors of adolescent children will often help to identify any problems early, in their most treatable state.

It is important for families who suspect a problem in one, or more, of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for mental health disorders is available and effective.

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and / or developmental problem in a child, which necessitates a mental health evaluation. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. 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, regular temper tantrums

The symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and/or developmental problem may resemble other conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

The following are the most common symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and / or developmental problem in an adolescent, which necessitates a mental health evaluation. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. 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

The symptoms of a potential emotional, behavioral and / or developmental problem may resemble other conditions. Always consult your adolescent's physician for an evaluation.

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


Last Updated 07/2012