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Children and Adolescents With Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders (page 2)

— Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Bipolar Disorder

Children and adolescents who demonstrate exaggerated mood swings that range from extreme highs (excitedness or manic phases) to extreme lows (depression) may have bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression). Periods of moderate mood occur in between the extreme highs and lows. During manic phases, children or adolescents may talk nonstop, need very little sleep, and show unusually poor judgment. At the low end of the mood swing, children experience severe depression. Bipolar mood swings can recur throughout life. Adults with bipolar disorder (about one in 100) often experienced their first symptoms during their teenage years (National Institutes of Health, 2001).

Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Young people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are unable to focus their attention and are often impulsive and easily distracted. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder occurs in up to five of every 100 children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). Most children with this disorder have great difficulty remaining still, taking turns, and keeping quiet. Symptoms must be evident in at least two settings, such as home and school, in order for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to be diagnosed.

Learning Disorders

Difficulties that make it harder for children and adolescents to receive or express information could be a sign of learning disorders. Learning disorders can show up as problems with spoken and written language, coordination, attention, or self-control.

Conduct Disorder

Young people with conduct disorder usually have little concern for others and repeatedly violate the basic rights of others and the rules of society. Conduct disorder causes children and adolescents to act out their feelings or impulses in destructive ways. The offenses these children and adolescents commit often grow more serious over time. Such offenses may include lying, theft, aggression, truancy, the setting of fires, and vandalism. Current research has yielded varying estimates of the number of young people with this disorder, ranging from one to four of every 100 children 9 to 17 years of age (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

Eating Disorders

Children or adolescents who are intensely afraid of gaining weight and do not believe that they are underweight may have eating disorders. Eating disorders can be life threatening. Young people with anorexia nervosa, for example, have difficulty maintaining a minimum healthy body weight. Anorexia affects one in every 100 to 200 adolescent girls and a much smaller number of boys (National Institutes of Health, 1999).

Youngsters with bulimia nervosa feel compelled to binge (eat huge amounts of food in one sitting). After a binge, in order to prevent weight gain, they rid their bodies of the food by vomiting, abusing laxatives, taking enemas, or exercising obsessively. Reported rates of bulimia vary from one to three of every 100 young people (National Institutes of Health, 1999).

Autism

Children with autism, also called autistic disorder, have problems interacting and communicating with others. Autism appears before the third birthday, causing children to act inappropriately, often repeating behaviors over long periods of time. For example, some children bang their heads, rock, or spin objects. Symptoms of autism range from mild to severe. Children with autism may have a very limited awareness of others and are at increased risk for other mental disorders. Studies suggest that autism affects 10 to 12 of every 10,000 children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

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