Click on an item from the list below, to page down to that topic. Following each disorder are on-line resources for parents.
The following are descriptions of some of the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that can occur during childhood and adolescence. All of these disorders can have a serious impact on a child's overall health.
Some disorders are more common than others, and conditions can range from mild to severe. Often, a child can have more than one disorder.
These are among the most common of childhood disorders. These young people experience excessive fear, worry, or uneasiness that interferes with their daily lives.
Attachment Disorder/Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), sometimes referred to as Attachment Disorder, usually begins before age five. With RAD a child’s social relatedness is markedly disturbed (fails to interact in many situations) and/or is developmentally inappropriate (does not discriminate in the interaction). For such a diagnosis there must be evidence of caregiver emotional or physical neglect, or repeated changes of caregivers.
A young person with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is unable to focus attention, is often impulsive and easily distracted. Most children with this disorder have great difficulty remaining still, taking turns, and keeping quiet.
Autism, Asperger Syndrome, PDD
Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder are developmental disabilities that share many of the same characteristics. These disabilities fall under an umbrella category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). They are neurological disorders that affect a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play and relate to others. Impairment may range from mild to severe. Children with ASD are at increased risk for other mental disorders.
Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness)
In children and adolescents it is marked by exaggerated mood swings between extreme lows (depression) and highs (excited or manic phases).
Children and adolescents act out their feelings or impulses toward others in destructive ways. Youth with conduct disorder repeatedly violate the basic rights of others and the rules of society.
Years ago many people believed that major depression did not occur in childhood. But we now know that the disorder can occur at any age. Depression is recognized more and more in young people. Some adolescents or even elementary school children with depression may not place any value on their own lives, which may lead to suicide.
A young person with anorexia nervosa, for example, cannot be persuaded to maintain a minimally normal body weight. This child or adolescent is intensely afraid of gaining weight and doesn't believe that he or she is under weight. Youth with bulimia nervosa feel compelled to binge (eat huge amounts of food at a time and then purge). These disorders can be life threatening.
The ability of children and adolescents to receive or express information is affected. These problems can show up as difficulties with written and spoken languages, coordination, attention, or self-control. Such difficulties can make it harder for a child to learn to read, write, or do math.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a potentially disabling anxiety disorder that can interfere with normal routine, academic functioning, social activities or relationships throughout a person’s life. Obsessions are recurrent, unwanted, irrational and persistent thoughts or impulses. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or rituals. Approximately one million children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from OCD. OCD can co-exist with other disorders making it difficult sometimes to diagnose.
Most often, PTSD occurs after a serious threat to one's life or the life of a loved one, or following a sudden and traumatic loss, such as of one's home. PTSD has been caused by such varied stressors as violent assault, rape, tornadoes, earthquakes, airplane crashes, torture, fires, kidnapping or severe car accidents. It can also be caused by a sudden life-threatening illness.
Also, we now know that you don't have to be direct victim of one of these traumas to experience PTSD. Sometimes, family members or friends of victims are so traumatized by witnessing or learning about the stressful event happening to a loved one, that they develop the symptoms as well.
This can be a devastating mental disorder. Young people with schizophrenia have psychotic periods when they may have hallucinations (sense things that do not exist, such as hearing voices), withdraw from others, and lose contact with reality.
General Parenting and Mental Health Resources
Respite Care Association of Wisconsin. View Lending Library of resources relating to respite care. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Wisconsin
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Understanding Childhood Mental Illnesses
more information, contact: