Diagnosis And Treatment Of Emotional Disorders in Children

children emotional disorder

Prior to the this century, most professionals thought that emotional disorders in children begun only in their adulthood. Well, they were wrong. Studies have shown that emotional disorders in children can be diagnosed even in children and adolescents. There is no specific definition of emotional disorder but rather the most common and informal description of this condition is that it is a diagnosable disorder of mood or anxiety.


Any form of mood or anxiety disorder that can disrupt daily activities of a child can be described as an emotional disorder. It is characterized by mood swings, emotional distress, anxiety or short temperedness . This condition, if left untreated through early diagnosis, is known to last for months or even years.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Emotional Disorders in Children

To bring things into perspective, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 15% of children globally are affected by emotional disorders. This figure is an underestimation because early diagnosis of this condition by parents is hard and troublesome. These estimates were concluded through the two major categories used for diagnosing mental disorders in children which included The International Disease Control Manual which is published by WHO and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. Most of diagnosis found in either group is comparable and in each manual, there is a specific section which describes emotional disorders in children and adults in depth and offer basis of their diagnosis.

children emotional disorder

It is important to note that parental knowledge of the child is critical because any information that the parent gives forms the bedrock through which the clinician can diagnose and recommend prognostic processes. You can figure this through the following criteria as mentioned by Sharon Brehm book titled “Help for Your Child, A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health Services”:

  • The intensity of the mood or behavior.
  • The Age of the child. Some behaviors are expected in different age groups than in others.
  • The duration of the unwanted behavior.

After there is enough evidence based on the above criteria, it is good advice to take your child for assessment with a qualified professional. Diagnostic process usually involves the clinician directly interacting with the child and using key pieces of information provided by the parent or guardian. All the findings deduced from this process are then compared with those in the two main classification system mentioned earlier for a full diagnosis. Diagnosis of emotional disorders in children is usually hard because most of the data used in formulating the two systems used is based on adult information. Adults can converse and express their feeling unlike children who may lack verbal skills and thereby unable to convey their true feelings and experience. Diagnosis made therefore tend to be incomplete and the clinician only relies on few subtle characteristics laid down in the manual before drawing conclusions.

Children Emotional Disorders

Conclusions made by the physician can point out to any of the following emotional disorders prevalent in children. These include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder – this is a condition that is prevalent more in boys than in girls and is characterized by lack of focus by patients. They are also observed to be overactive.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a condition that makes the children defiant, hostile and generally uncooperative. These children are mostly annoying or spiteful on purpose and direct all these negative feelings to authority figures.
  • Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Children experiencing this form of emotional disorder usually tend to be fearful and full of unusually irrational thoughts which trigger obsession. It is this obsession which can be harmful as they will tend to do repetitive harmful behavior without realizing all the negative consequences it draws.
  • While anxiety is a normal emotion which everyone has, going overboard will usually affect normal daily performance and cause insomnia. An anxiety problem has been satisfactorily linked to earlier cases of trauma experiences, Panic disorder and OCD.

Therapies for Emotional Disorder in Children

So you might now ask yourself how these emotional disorders in children are treated. Well, there are scientifically proven and tested methods of treatment available. All of the available talk therapies are result oriented and short term with weekly 10-35 prognostic sessions. The two major therapy types are:

  1. Cognitive Therapy

We can generalize this type of therapy as a positive talk session where the patient is taught to think positive and not to dwell in negative but rather he/she should learn to perceive thing differently even when face with difficult situations.

  1. Behavioral Therapy

This therapeutic method is suitable for kids with developed verbal skills and what the therapist tries to do is to help the patient “unlearn” negative behaviors and attitudes. Implementing this therapy type usually incorporates a reward system for any behavior done away with.




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