Mental illnesses in children, dak fit!

Developmental disorders, computer addiction, ADHD: According to the DAK Child and Adolescent Report, 26 percent of all children and adolescents were affected by a mental illness in 2016. Striking: Developmental disorders were diagnosed significantly more often in childhood, behavioral disorders significantly more often in adolescents. We give an overview.

developmental disorders
Developmental psychology generally speaks of developmental disorders if "a child’s motor, linguistic, intellectual or social skills are significantly below the level of development of their peers or, contrary to the normal course of development, have forgotten skills that have already been acquired." In 2016, every seventh child had a developmental disorder , with almost half of the cases occurring in children aged five years or younger. Developmental disorders can have physical (e.g. consequences of an accident) or psychological causes.

Speech and speech disorders
Developmental disorders of language are disorders of language development that can manifest themselves in a variety of ways – from sound formation problems to word finding disorders to stuttering. If you notice a speech or speech disorder, you should have it treated before starting school.

Developmental disorders of school skills
These are characterized by the fact that in a child with an otherwise age-appropriate level of development, skills such as B. Reading, spelling or arithmetic are clearly below the age norm. They are also called specific learning disorders. Specifically, these are: literacy problems (dyslexia) and math problems (dyscalculia).

Developmental disorders of motor functions
Children with motor development disorders show a movement behavior that is not appropriate for their age and their overall motor development is slowed down. In kindergarten or elementary school age, they often appear clumsy and awkward due to their clumsy fine motor skills and a fluid movement during everyday activities.

Diagnosis and therapy
If a developmental disorder is suspected, a pediatrician should be consulted as soon as possible, who may refer you to a child neurologist or child and adolescent psychiatrist. Various tests can confirm or dispel the suspicion. Depending on the disorder, the doctor will prescribe speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy or curative education or a combination. Advice and information to parents about the disorder is also important so that small exercises can be incorporated into everyday life.

behavioral disorders
Behavioral disorders are inappropriate behavior patterns that deviate from the norm. This can range from nail biting to hyperactivity to constant lying, severe aggression or self-harm ("scratches"). A corresponding diagnosis was made in 105 of 1,000 children and adolescents in 2016, including significantly more boys than girls. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common and most discussed behavioral disorders in children. Around 4.1 percent of all children and adolescents got this diagnosis in 2016. The most common diagnosis is when the child reaches school age because the children concerned are overwhelmed with the discipline and calmness expected at school.

diagnosis and therapy of other behavior disorders
If you notice any abnormal behavior in your child, you should not hesitate to contact the pediatrician. The earlier the causes of the disorder are identified and alternative ways of solving problems and resolving conflicts are shown, the better. Sometimes the pediatrician can help, sometimes he will refer to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family therapy may also be indicated.

Typical symptoms of ADHD

  • lack of concentration
  • Easy to distract
  • Motor restlessness ("fidgeting")
  • Strong mood swings
  • Excessive sensitivity
  • impulsiveness

Causes of ADHD
ADHD is mostly genetic, but unfavorable environmental influences such as little emotional attention and high media consumption can also play a role.

Therapy of ADHD
It is particularly important to train parents, educators or teachers on how to properly deal with the hyperactive child. Behavioral therapy and medication can also be added.

Tips from pediatrician Dr. Annette Lingenauber

  • Your pediatrician is the first point of contact for behavioral problems and developmental disorders.
  • Behavioral disorders and the resulting upbringing difficulties can occur at any age.
  • Children are often under increasing pressure today. There is no time for free, imaginative play. The increasing availability and lure of electronic media also has negative effects on development and the ability to concentrate.
  • Take advantage of the checkups. They offer the opportunity to talk in detail about your child’s level of development and behavior.
  • Your pediatrician will clarify with you whether advanced diagnostics, e.g. B. in a social pediatric center or with a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is necessary.
  • This often complex diagnosis is the prerequisite for successful therapy.
  • Do not hesitate to get help, because otherwise behavioral disorders and other psychiatric illnesses in childhood also put a great strain on the whole family.

Neurotic disorders
With 52 out of 1,000 cases, neurotic disorders are the third most common mental disorder in children. These include anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

OCD affects about two Percent of Children and adolescents. They are complex disorders with a variety of manifestations. It is crucial for the diagnosis that …

  • Constraints must be recognizable to the patient as their own thoughts or impulses.
  • at least one of these constraints is resisted.
  • the obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not per se relaxing.
  • the constraints repeat themselves in an uncomfortable manner and the patients are clearly impaired.

Recent studies assume that up to two percent of all children and adolescents in Germany suffer from OCD. Some spend hours in the shower, checking countless times before leaving whether they have locked the front door or arranging and counting certain things all the time. Others have aggressive thoughts they cannot defend themselves against or are constantly worried about contracting diseases. Although those affected usually experience the obsessive thoughts and actions as nonsensical or tormenting, they keep on pressing. In doing so, they significantly impair normal daily routines and social relationships.

Many children hide the obsessive thoughts and actions from their parents because they are ashamed of it. This requires careful observation and careful but consequent questioning. "Why are your hands so red?" "How often have you cleaned up your room today?" If you suspect an obsessive-compulsive disorder, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible to prevent the disease from becoming chronic.

The treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in childhood and adolescence usually follows several approaches: behavioral therapy and, in the case of severe symptoms, drug strategies. In addition, close family involvement is essential – parents and siblings need to learn to respond adequately to coercive measures to help those affected refrain from doing so.


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Christina Cherry
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