Emotional Problems

Emotional problems in children and teenagers can range from mild to severe. When a parent suspects an emotional problem, the first step is an open, honest talk with the child about feelings, if this is appropriate to the child's age. Parents may also want to consult with the child's doctor, teachers, clergy, or other adults the child knows. At least one in 20 children and adolescents may have a serious emotional disturbance that severely disrupts life at home, school, and in the community. Signs in a young child may be:

  • a marked drop in school performance
  • persistent nightmares
  • frequent unexplainable temper tantrums
  • persistent disobedience or aggression
  • refusal to participate in usual activities

In older children and adolescents, warning signs may include:

  • depression
  • abuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • sexual acting out
  • self-injury, self destructive behavior, or threats of harm to others
  • changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • problems in relationships

Your child's pediatrician can rule out possible physical causes for problems and help you locate a mental health professional. Since adopted children often have emotional problems specifically related to adoption issues, parents should seek a counselor or therapist who is knowledgeable about adoption. Once an appropriate diagnosis is made, treatment may include psychotherapy, behavior therapy, or medication. For more information:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
202-966-7300
www.aacap.org
National Institute of Mental Health
301-443-4513
TTY: 301-443-8431
www.nimh.nih.gov

09/02