The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that 10 to 15 percent of children worldwide deal with emotional and behavioral disorders.
Emotional and behavioral disorders in children can be hard to detect, as not every child reaches the same emotional and developmental milestones at the same time. Children also face different social and family situations as they grow, such as divorce or a big move, which can cause varied reactions depending on the child. One child may take these challenges in stride, and one might have an intense emotional reaction. Neither of these reactions necessarily means the child has an emotional or behavioral disorder.
Diagnosing a young child with an emotional or behavioral disorder can be difficult because children’s personalities are still changing, adapting and developing. However, it is important to seek professional help early if you notice your child may be experiencing symptoms of an emotional or behavioral disorder, as early intervention can help your child recover and avoid other emotional problems later in life.
Some signs that your child might have an emotional or behavioral disorder include, but are not limited to:
- Exhibiting awkward responses to others’ behavior, such as laughing at others’ pain
- Physically and purposefully harming themselves or others or animals, including but not limited to head banging, hitting, kicking, and biting
- Crying excessively and uncontrollably but being unable to identify what’s wrong, or continuing to cry excessively and uncontrollably once a need has been taken care of
- Insomnia or restless sleeping for an extended period of time
- Avoiding and/or reacts negatively to touch or affection by a loved one
- Experiencing severe separation anxiety, to the point of making themselves sick or becoming paralyzed with anxiety and fear
Not every symptom of emotional and behavioral disorders are listed here, and just because your child exhibits one or some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean they do have an emotional or behavioral disorder. Only a mental health care professional can diagnose emotional and behavioral disorders, so seek professional help if you are concerned about your child’s health.