Child and Teenage Psychology
Norah Breslin CPsychol, CSci, AFBPsS

Depression, OCD, Anxiety #01

Is my child depressed?

Children & adolescents can show symptoms of problematic depression as listed below. In children & teens, at least five depressive symptoms must be present to the extent that they interfere with daily functioning over a minimal period of two weeks. A psychologist will be able to ascertain if your child is suffering with clinical depression.

Signs of depression (in children and adolescents) can include:

• Frequent sadness, tearfulness,
• Increased irritability, hostility and sensitivity
• Hopelessness
• Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Low energy, persistent boredom
• Frequent complaints of physical problems, for example, headache, stomach ache
• Withdrawn behaviour
• Poor communication
• Inability to concentrate (poor performance in school; frequent absences)
• Changes in sleeping habits (staying up late; inability to wake in the morning)
• Changes in eating habits (over eating or under eating)
• Talk of running away from home or efforts to do so
• Thoughts or expressions of suicide, self harming, or self-destructive behaviours

Depression, OCD, Anxiety #02

What is Obssessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD is characterized by repetitive thoughts, images, impulses, or actions that are distressing, time-consuming, and affect normal everyday functioning. It is a very common disorder.

Obsessions can focus on fear of others being hurt, sexually intrusive thoughts, recurring religious thoughts, worries about symmetry, worrisome thoughts about body parts, incessent doubt, thoughts of contamination.

Compulsions are varied and can include washing, counting, checking, repeating, hoarding, ordering, arranging and engaging in mental rituals.

Treatment of OCD

An effective treatment for OCD is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is designed to help sufferers gradually develop a higher tolerance for the feared situation and reducing the safety ritual (compulsion). For many children, this therapeutic approach works well. This therapeutic approach can result in a significant reduction of OCD symptoms.

Depression, OCD, Anxiety #03

What is a child Anxiety Disorder?

Young people with an anxiety disorder typically are so worried, distressed or uneasy that they cannot function normally. Family life is significantly impacted too. Without treatment, anxiety disorders can lead to:

• missed school days or an inability to finish school
• impaired relations with peers
• low self-esteem, alcohol or other drug use
• problems adjusting to new situations
• anxiety disorder in adulthood

Types of Anxiety Disorder

Children can show a variety of anxiety symptoms without ever developing a disorder. However, examples of anxiety disorders include:

Separation anxiety. This is diagnosed when your child experiences acute distress and worry when separated from a person they love. Symptoms can be similar to generalized anxiety disorder, but usually include excessive crying and other ways of demanding the return of their loved one.

Social anxiety. This is a common disorder in children and adolescents. Underpinning social anxiety disorder is a profound fear of being criticized or harshly judged by others. Sufferers fear being embarrassed in the classroom, speaking in front of others, eating in public places. If left untreated, social anxiety can be carried into adulthood and the individual may make life choices based on avoidance of social contact.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Children and adolescents with this disorder experience extreme, unrealistic worry that doesn't seem to be related to any recent event. Typically, these young people are very self-conscious, feel tense, have a strong need for reassurance, and may complain about stomach aches or other discomforts that don't appear to have any physical basis.

Panic attacks. Symptoms include hyperventilation, trembling, heart palpitations, feeling faint, experience of tingling in hands or other parts of the body.

Phobias. A phobia is an unrealistic and excessive fear of some situation or object. Some phobias, called specific phobias, centre on animals, storms, water, heights, or situations, such as being in an enclosed space, etc. As young people with phobias try to avoid the objects and situations they fear, the disorder can greatly restrict their lives.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A child with obsessive-compulsive disorder becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviours. Even though the child may agree that the thoughts or behaviours appear senseless and cause distress, the repetitions are very hard to stop. The compulsive behaviours may include repeated hand washing, counting, arranging and rearranging objects, a need for symmetry, or cleaning rituals.

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