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Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Parenting
Child Development and Parenting: Infants

Early Childhood Mental Health Care

Angela Oswalt, MSW, Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Preoperational age children, just like adolescents and adults, can have disorders that affect their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Common childhood mental illnesses and developmental disorders include Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorders, Autism and similar Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Adjustment Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder. Each of these disorders is defined and described in detail in our Childhood Mental Health topic center.

Mental health illnesses are associated with a long standing social stigma such that many people feel too ashamed to admit that they might have a mental problem, much less go for help. Adult caregivers who have internalized this stigma will often apply it inadvertently to their children and fail to get them the help they need simply because, at some level, the caregivers are too embarrassed to arrange it. One of the bigger obstacles to getting children help for mental health issues is, then, the issue of helping caregivers to overcome their fear or embarrassment of having a child with a mental illness issue. It is unfortunate that this stigma continues to be an issue for so many people, as untreated mental disorders can have serious long-term effects. Social, academic and occupational difficulties, addictions, poor self-esteem, suicide attempts, self-harm (cutting or burning one's self) and the like can result. Only 1 out of 5 children with symptoms of mental illness receives proper early assessment and treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your child; if he or she seems to be lagging behind others in terms of cognitive, social, emotional, or academic skills, please share your concerns with your pediatrician or with a professional mental health clinician who specializes in the treatment of childhood disorders. For more information on childhood mental health, please consult our Childhood Mental Disorders topic center.