What you may dismiss as a common behavioural problem in your child can turn out to be the symptom of a bigger disorder. Here are some important behavioural red flags you should never ignore.
By Jayashree Dasgupta
Most children start going to school by the time they turn six. At this stage, they begin to understand their surroundings and the role they play in it. They also start asserting their independence and individuality, which is critical for their development.
However, this is also the time when some children start showing signs of behavioural problems. According to a study titled, ‘Age of onset of mental disorders: A review of recent literature,’ by Ronald Kessler et al published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry in 2007, about half of all lifetime mental disorders in children begin before 14 years of age. Ironically, although effective management strategies exist, particularly in developing countries, most children do not receive treatment for behavioural problems. Often due to a lack of awareness, parents feel that behavioural problems are an inevitable part of childhood and children will outgrow them. They try to deal with the problem on their own, not realising that these are signs of treatable behavioural conditions. A recent review of epidemiological studies in India (published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 2014) looked at the prevalence of childhood psychiatric disorders and found that the prevalence in community studies was reported to be around 6.5%, whereas it was a staggering 23.3% in school-based studies. This wide difference in figures shows that most children with behavioural problems remain undiagnosed and do not get professional help.
In addition to lack of awareness amongst parents, there are also other reasons for children not receiving treatment for behavioural problems. These include - limited number of professionals, inadequate treatment facilities and the existence of multiple misconceptions about mental illness.
It is essential that children receive treatment for such problems. Therefore, parents should watch for signs of problematic behaviour in their children and seek professional help at the earliest.
Here are five common behavioural problems to watch for:
Now that you have read about some common behavioural problems in children, pay attention to your child’s behaviour. If you spot any of these in your child, understand that such behaviour is not always within her control. Also, it may need prompt intervention. Take her to a mental health professional at the earliest, as a delay in doing so can worsen the problem and have a long-term impact on the child’s development.
The author is a Senior Research Fellow at Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
Related video: Venkata Suresh Lolla, Principal, Global City International School dispels the misconceptions about mental health.
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