Exploring the disconnect between mental disorders in childhood and adulthood
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The latest word from scientific sources say that the number of youth struggling with psychological disorders has gone overlooked for too long. What makes matters worse is how this issue is getting out of hand. When disorders and other disturbing developments are left unchecked in an individual’s childhood or adolescent years, studies are beginning to show that these problems will arise in one way or another later in life.

According to research from Duke Medicine, children who were either diagnosed with a psychiatric condition or partially met the criteria for one were six times more likely to have difficulties in adulthood than those without psychiatric issues. Notable challenges include criminal charges, addiction, unplanned pregnancies, educational obstacles, residential instability and problems securing a job.

Among the participants, 26.2 percent did match the full diagnostic criteria for depression, anxiety or a behavioral disorder in childhood, 31 percent had milder symptoms and 42.7 percent had no identifiable issues. For those who met the full requirements of a disorder in childhood, 59.5 percent were met with at least one serious challenge as adults, while 34.2 percent experienced multiple problems. Of those with the milder psychiatric conditions, 41.9 percent had at least one of the problems in adulthood that complicates success and 23.2 percent had more than one such issue. The study gives substantial evidence for the long lasting effects of psychological ailments.

Improving the diagnostic ability of the human eye

In their 1999 book, “Is it ‘Just a Phase’?: How to Tell Common Childhood Phases from More Serious Problems,” Dr. Susan Anderson Swedo and Dr. Henrietta L. Leonard list some of the most common problem phases of development. With Swedo as the head of behavioral pediatrics at the National Institutes of Mental Health and Leonard as a child psychiatrist and professor at Brown University School of Medicine, both are able to tap into a deep collection of first-hand wisdom. Some regularly experienced developmental phases include:

  • Picky eating
  • Excessive activity
  • Childhood fears
  • Thumb sucking
  • Bed-wetting
  • Separation anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Shyness

In contrast, the two experts also detail the main emotional and psychological disorders that strike at younger ages. Most notably, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), depression and other abusive behaviors are discussed.

This specific ranking is supported by a recent 2013 report from the Child Trends research center, which compiled the recorded adolescent disorders of multiple national surveys. Specifically, anxiety disorders led in prevalence with 10 percent of teenagers having some form of the condition, such as OCD. Close behind were ADHD and depression, with the former at 9 percent and the latter at 8 percent of all adolescents.

While excessive activity may sometimes seem similar to the hyperactivity in ADHD and certain fears might feel close to a phobia, the clinical criteria that is required to make an official diagnosis is much more strict and complex than just a few similarities. It is also important to remember that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that one of the cardinal features of any true disorder is, “The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

Lastly, in a 2008 national profile of adolescents from the National Adolescent Health Information Center, the authors found that the highest percentages of children and adolescents that seek out or receive the services that they need only peaked at 24.6 percent of female teens and 21 percent of male teens. The stigma mental health disorders and their respective treatments still carry are commonly heightened with adolescents, as many teens are susceptible to social perceptions and status. Other experts say that a better coordination between schools, primary health care providers and other social services is also needed as well.

Educating students, parents and other authority figures of what features are normal and which are more abnormal is imperative to improving how mental disorders are prevented in the modern age. Sovereign Health of California offers treatment programs that specialize in addressing underlying mental health conditions by utilizing innovative and cutting edge cognitive testing, rehabilitation and evidence-based treatment modalities. If you, a family member or friend is in need of mental health or addiction care, contact a Sovereign representative online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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